The resilience of insti and its people when up against the floods of 2015 is a well known fact. While the considerably destructive cyclone Vardah has laid waste many areas of IITM, we have already started on the restoration process with a will. About the experience, administrative action and several acts of help, Akash Kumar speaks with various people of insti.
“When the cyclone hit, the workers as well as the students there at the time rushed into the kitchen. We fed the students inside the kitchen itself. Cyclone has destroyed a bit of infrastructure but not much considerable damage has been done.”
“We were in the lab around 10 in the morning when the cyclone hit. It was so intense that solar panels on HSB rooftop were knocked down and flying around. In the night, because of the trees that had fallen, it was really difficult to even make our way to the hostel.
Next morning at around 9’o clock, self motivated individuals started to come up and we started cleaning up. People started to join and our group got of around more than 40 people. Innovative ideas came up and people brought ropes, axes, lab equipments; anything that could be of help in cutting down the fallen trees and cleaning up. We continued till around 1:30 in the afternoon and cleaned up the road from Gurunath to Krishna Road. Later, administration also pitched in.”
“It started with rain and then it took the form of cyclone. I went inside the hostel and shut the door. I could see the cycles getting crushed under the weight of trees for over them. The next day, I helped a few students who were cleaning up the blocked paths.”
“I was there in the campus during cyclone. I woke up late that morning to hear the drizzling rain, whistling wind sound and sound of trees swaying in the wind. The wind was getting stronger and stronger and the peak wind speed happened between 12 PM and 2 PM. Trees uprooted and unlocked window glasses broke. Phone network went down and I couldn’t contact anyone. The wind and rain settled around 3 PM. I went out of the hostel with friends to see a wrecked insti. It had literally become an enchanted forest with fallen trees blocking almost all the roads. We went to Zaitoon to see if they have food. They were serving whatever they had prepared that day on credit. We went to other eateries to buy some food for night. I asked all caterers to give food items on credit to students and they agreed immediately. I also talked with mess caterers and asked them to extend mess timings till late in the night. Many of them told me that they were operating till 4 PM in the noon. Now, I wanted to communicate this to students somehow. Power was cut sometime during cyclone and there was no internet connection. Luckily, I got 2G signals in between and I managed to send a mail to students. I also communicated the same through FB and Whatsapp groups. Dean (Students) called me in the night and told that engg unit need some student volunteers to help with clearing fallen trees and asked me to talk with Dean (Admin) for more details. Dean (Admin) told that they need some student volunteers at admin block by 9:00 AM the next day. The mobile signals was very weak then so that I was unable to send mails. I communicated same to Purab and he sent the mail. Drizzling rain and weaker wind continued in the night. Weather was back to normal the next day morning. Power was not back. I went around insti, talked with vendors and mess caterers to know if they have any issues. The main problem was power. I conveyed the same to Dean (Admin) and he told that he is working on it. I saw some of the students volunteering themselves to clear trees between Tapti hostel and Krishna gate. Most of them were PG students. They had rope, cutting equipment. We also joined them and helped in whatever way we can for sometime. Power was back by night. Internet was restored on 15th morning.”
“One person from Cauvery Hostel got injured. A small branch of tree fell over him when he was trying to go somewhere from the hostel after cyclone. He came back to the hostel. We have first aid kit at the hostel. So, we tried to stop the bleeding but it did not. An office person took him to the hospital on his scooter but even that was very hard as the path was filled with fallen trees. He is fine now.
Actually in a situation of natural disaster like this, our first priority should be safety. Then, we should look for helping the other people around too. Instead of depending upon the administration, we should come together to respond. I feel that the student bodies should have organized something of this sort. It was hard because the communication lines were broken but they could still have gone to all the hostels and caught hold of the hostel general secretary for help in the clean up campaign from the students of that respective hostel. The clean up campaign that we started the next day still continues. 3-4 of us contributed an hour or so every day from that day onwards for a week. Now as more and more people are coming back to the hostel, we are also planning to do a Swachh Cauvery Campaign where we will clean up what is left on the weekends.”
“The messes on the day of cyclone were opened till late as people went for food as late as 3:30 when the cyclone had subsided. We did not have this problem in Cauvery as we have the mess inside the hostel itself. The mess people did not worry about what mess you were allotted. Cauvery mess allowed everyone. In the night, they had around 500-600 people. Even girls from Tunga came. Mess workers were really helpful and they helped in whatever way they could. There was no power. Many of us slept in the common room.
The next day, Sateesh came to me and asked if we could clear the roads around 8:30 in the morning. Luckily, we had some equipments in the hostel with which we could cut trees. We got some ropes. Our group worked from clearing Kaveri to Guru and from Guru to Krishna gate. Some workers working in Himalaya messes also joined and brought equipments like axes. I also heard that some group from Pampa hostel worked on the road back side of Himalaya which connects SAC.
I spoke to Kishore, HAS regarding the replanting of trees that were partially uprooted in the cyclone. With the equipments we had, we have replanted two guava trees. Other trees were big and we did not want to take any risk. Because if it is not planted well and it falls, someone might get injured. Pipes were broken, solar panels were broken. We have been calling the civil maintenance since that day.”
T5E expresses its respect to everyone-administration, students, institute workers- who have helped handle the crisis. While the damage is seen heavily in the conspicuous absence of several trees, things would surely turn around if everyone works together.