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Indian Red Cross helps families evacuate as Chennai floods

Weeks of torrential rain have inundated communities across Tamil Nadu.

Thursday December 3, 2015

Chennai floods rescue
In Chennai, Red Cross helped 468 families evacuate from the flooded Vijay Shanthi apartment complex. Photo: Indian Red Cross Society

Widespread flooding has resulted in more than 200 deaths and affected 1.8 million people.  

Flights and trains have been suspended in the state's capital Chennai, schools are closed and the military is conducting mass rescue activities.

Indian Red Cross is helping with evacuations and distributing packets of food, blankets, clothing, cooking sets and tarpaulins. Local Red Cross branches are helping people forced to take shelter in schools, places of worship and community centres.  

The floods have continued for more than a month due to almost non-stop rains.

Mary Calista, whose house in low-lying Cuddalore was inundated in November, recalls how quickly the area flooded.  

"We had no warning there could be flooding. Our main worry was the wind - that's why we were inside. Suddenly water inside the house was waist-high."  

Mary grabbed her children and ran to safety in a nearby church, where 15 other families were also sheltering on the concrete floor.   

As the water receded, the family saw the walls of their mud brick house had collapsed, with its the thatched roof now resting on the ground. Most of their belongings - clothes, books, a flour grinder, fan, TV and storage cupboard - were gone or ruined.  

She mourns the loss of her house. "It was nice. It was beautiful. I took good care of it. I have no idea what we'll do," she says.  

The family is still staying in the church, using emergency aid distributed by Indian Red Cross. Over the next three months, Red Cross will continue to help with relief items, safe drinking water and hygiene education to prevent disease.  

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