During the recent floods in Chennai, on November 14 at about 6 am, the Blue Cross of India received a call from Mr. Velu, on the Red Hills by-pass road, with the information that a buffalo was being washed away with the heavy current of the breached Ambathur lake, that he was following her, and that we needed to rush out right away.
Our volunteers Kiran, Selvam, Kavin, Santosh, Arjun, and Shunmugam had all returned from late-night flood rescues just an hour and a half before the call came in, and were resting at the Blue Cross facility in Guindy. They were woken up and immediately left to attend to the rescue. The scene that met their eyes seemed to be out of a nightmare, for they all saw a massive buffalo (they didn’t know at the time that she was full-term pregnant) who was fighting against the currents to reach dry land. They report that the flowing currents were battering her from all sides, and it was clear that the soil under her feet was being washed away. At one point in time, she could no longer reach down to the ground and was just floating, at which point our clever boys guided her gently, using poles, under a culvert and into a storm water drain.
Once she was stuck in the drain, our volunteers worked with ropes and fashioned a harness, and—with the help of some gracious onlookers (who also took the action pictures in the frame)—she was pulled out to safety.
A word here though: pulling out an 800-kilogram buffalo is, unsurprisingly, an incredibly difficult task. The ropes had to be placed very judiciously so that she wouldn’t dislocate any limbs. Moreover, it is a pretty risky thing to approach a buffalo. They can be very aggressive at times, especially when in distress. Kiran had to enter the deep storm water drain and fasten the ropes on to her. She wasn’t thrilled about it initially, but he coaxed and cajoled until she allowed him to harness her and secure the heavy ropes properly. The team then pulled her out safely. She was brought back to our Guindy facility, where she delivered her baby, a female calf we named Gina. We are thrilled to report that both mother (who we’ve named Yamini) and little Gina are doing well at our Guindy facility.
Our team sustained a few minor injuries during the rescue, but Kiran received rather considerable injuries due to twice being washed off his feet by the currents and getting thrown around a bit. However, we are also glad to report that he is now doing fine.
The whole rescue happened during extremely heavy rain, which might not be clear from the pictures.
In the recent devastating Chennai floods, Blue Cross has rescued 12,000 animals, either taking them to higher ground or, as needed, providing shelter, food, and vet care. The city is still recovering and Blue Cross flood rescue teams continue this life-saving work every day. – Editor
How you can help animals in the floods
If you’d like to donate to help Blue Cross of India with their work rescuing animals affected by the floods… From the U.S. or anywhere outside India, click here.
The rainfall from Nov I to 30 was 1255.7 mm, as against a normal of 407.4 . From December 1 to 7, we received 531.8 mm of rain. It had stopped raining yesterday but has begun again today, a lighter rain.
I don’t know if this is Climate Change, but I have never seen such extreme weather. This is Nature’s fury at its beautiful best!
The floods were caused by the unannounced and sudden opening of the sluice gates of Chembarabakkam lake . The waters were let into the Adyar and Cooum, and then burst their banks. Since the original channels connecting the lakes and rivers had been built over, the waters used the roads as channels, and came down TTK Road (where we live) from the river, entering our house and the Foundation campus. From December 1 to 6 there was no electricity, so we had to ration the water. We have a generator, but no diesel was available as water had entered all the underground tanks in the petrol bunks. Alwarpet was very badly hit. There was knee-high water inside the Foundation – after all, the building is nearly 200 years old , and is at a lower height than the road. Eldams road and Alwarpet junction were under water, and the waters were as high as car windows. Fortunately, I had desilted our well in October, so we could pump clean fresh rainwater. I didn’t dare use Metro water, which was contaminated with sewage water, so I now have sparkling fresh rainwater! Our mobiles had no connectivity. Only the good old BSNL land lines were working, but most people have only mobiles!
My 16 dogs were miserable. They hate the rain!
Many of our staff – including those who couldn’t reach home and those whose homes were under water – moved in to the Foundation guest house. We were cooking for about 25 people – breakfast, lunch and dinner! Water entered the ground floor of all our homes – mine, Prashanth’s and the old house, which had knee-high water in the beautiful open courtyards and central hall. Many parts of the city were submerged – bridges, roads, buildings and hospitals – while cars and 2 wheelers are still floating around! Boats were the common mode of transport. But those I sympathize with most are the sweeper women. They could not leave their homes, yet the floods destroyed their houses and took away all their belongings (including gold jewellery kept in a safe). The people living in slums are the worst affected. We are the lucky ones.
We have never stopped the pooja in the last 200 years. We were forced to do so this time as the priest could not come and water had entered the pooja.
The Adyar river entered Chinny’s factory up to a height of 8 feet. The water went into all the machines and computers. The workers from Orissa who live on the premises managed to escape in time and run to the terrace, but they could not salvage anything.
The airport closed down, and the trains and buses were all stopped. Our only lifeline was the Bangalore highway, through which relief supplies entered the city. They say 269 people died, but I think the number must be much more (at least 2690). I know entire families of people living beside the river who have disappeared. I saw aeroplane wheels under water!
The NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority), Army, Navy and Air Force were magnificent. They rescued people, provided food, etc. The Blue Cross of India was also magnificent. Dawn William was rescuing animals and people by the thousands in pouring rain, night and day. We bought a boat for the Blue Cross, while HSI India sent down two more boats and three vets from Ahmedabad. The boats rescued thousands of people and animals.
The state and local government were missing and appeared only on Sunday night. Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur and Cuddalore districts are also badly affected. The electricity boxes are under water – one man was electrocuted on Eldams road.
Our problems are a result of corruption and lack of preparedness. While we cannot blame anybody for nature’s fury, we can blame the local government for not cleaning the storm water drains; for not desilting the temple tanks and lakes in summer, when they were dry; for not planting the traditional palm trees and Bermuda grass (arugam pullu / durva) on tank bunds, to prevent water breaching the sides; for not clearing Acacia and Water hyacinth from water bodies; for not clearing the inlets and outlets of water bodies; for not removing constructions and illegal encroachments alongside rivers and lakes in spite of court orders to do so; for dumping solid waste in water bodies, marshlands and waterways; for not closing electric boxes; and so on. Plastic bags MUST be banned, for they had clogged the storm water drains. Four years from now we will have a fresh cylone, floods, etc., and the same thing will happen again.
Finally, water was pumped out of our garden and the Foundation campus and power returned on Sunday night and Monday.
I hope my next mail is happier, and not something out of the Doomsday Book!
How you can help animals in the floods
If you’d like to donate to help Blue Cross of India with their work rescuing animals affected by the floods.
From the U.S. or anywhere outside India, click here.
Reflections on relating to the major flood the past spring in Wimberley, Texas – Editor
By Suzanne Cordrey
I spun around and blinked the rain out of my eyes. It was pitch black and 1:30 in the morning. The rain was warm and soaked my jacket but my mind was far away from my physical discomfort. The roar of the Blanco River was deafening and it felt so near to my house but I couldn’t see it. Neighbors were heading out in their cars, passing me by, leaving me there alone in the lane. I knew something dreadful was happening.
It rained for over two weeks here in the hill country of Texas, off and on, with massive, drenching bouts of rain. The rivers were all running full. But on Saturday, May 30, it poured all day. I woke up feeling so sad, and I paced around the house looking at things, wondering what would break my heart to live without. Funny how small things grow into desperately large emotional attachments at times like this. I pulled out a duffel and stuffed my favorite clothes and jewelry inside, half absentmindedly, but spurred on by a nagging voice in the back of my head. Then came out the cat carriers and my bag with passport and money, etc. Each trek out to the car left me soaked. And each time, I looked up and down the street to see what my neighbors were doing. No signs of movement. OK. Hunker down. But that river got louder and louder. Like a freight train roaring past. It is about 100 yards from my house, between trees and another home. I did get so restless that around midnight I walked around the corner with my flashlight. The water was up to the street which meant that the houses against the river were under water. omg. That’s when cars started up and drove off. Now many of these people have lived here for years, it is an old neighborhood and they were pretty river savvy. But what happened next was totally unexpected.
Upriver about 30 miles is the town of Blanco. They received eleven inches of rain in one hour and with the already saturated ground, the water slid rapidly into the river channel and charged full speed ahead toward Wimberley. But we didn’t know that. No one did in the moment. Which is what makes a FLASH FLOOD so terrifying. In an instant, a wall of water hit the banks of the winding river with such force that houses high on the cliffs were lifted right up. The ancient cypress trees uprooted like twigs and slammed into bridges and other debris. Cars and trucks floated away. People found themselves unable to get to their cars and out to the roads. Low water crossings filled and blocked passage out of the hill country. All in the pouring rain on a pitch black night. I did manage to get the cats and rabbits into the car and drive around downed trees onto a higher street. Electricity was out all over Wimberley and the police were directing us to the community center which was dark as well. There were people sitting in their cars there in the dark. But at the door was Mayor Thurber, and his voice in the dark advised me to go to the high school.
With over 100 cars in the parking lot, there were lights, a dry spot on the basketball court floor, and the Red Cross was handing out sleeping pads, blankets, dry socks (oh, dry socks! it was impossible to describe how nice they felt on my feet). I left the animals in the car and joined the masses and their dogs (so good to see they were included) and we sat our sleep deprived bodies down and waited for daylight. I checked on the animals when the rain took a rare break. They were quiet, but working up a permanent stink eye for me when I opened the car door. In the morning, I joined a couple of my neighbors as we discovered each other, and we came back to the neighborhood only to find the police had blocked off the road leading to our houses. Major flooding down past us, starting at our neighborhood. We were allowed in, and the three of us were overjoyed to find our houses just out of range of the tsunami-like wall of water that hit the rest of the street. All the homes directly on the river were ruined and news coverage shows that was the tip of the iceberg. But standing in my little cabin, looking around at everything just like I left it, I stopped and felt a palpable surge of gratitude rush through me. I knew that I was feeling Grace. I had been allowed to experience the trauma without the devastation. And in that moment, I realized I was experiencing Grace.
The sadness of the whole town is unbearable. Family members missing and dead, pets missing and dead. Hundred year old trees and their inhabitants gone. It is spring and numerous birds and their young were drowned. Does who had recently given birth were abandoning their fawns.
The numbness of mind and heart are palpable.
In my world, without electricity, phone and internet, the perspective was so personal, so right here. Watching it now as the rest of the country got to see it is shockingly personal. I have often sat in my recliner and watched tragedies unfold with the voice of the commentator filling my mind with the facts and events as they progress. But inside of a tragedy, there is no such Big Picture. There is only the moment filled with fear and unknowns. Clarity of mind was not without difficulty. So the witness aspect of me had everything in control, car packed, essentials, knew how to find shelter. But the emotional part of me was terrified. I’d never lived through a natural disaster like this before.
Lying on the wooden floor of the basket ball court at the high school, I found it impossible to sleep. I listened to the voices of the people who came in, numb with shock, with tales much worse than mine. Cars floating away, family members missing, swimming through the foul, violent water full of toxic debris to get to higher ground. Some were visitors whose vacations were abruptly ended in tragedy. Others have lived with the moody river currents and had never seen anything like this before. Not re-assuring. I was cold and wet and the night was agonizingly long.
The week after the flood has been almost as violently chaotic as the flood itself. Bulldozers and bobcats drone on all day long clearing the larger pieces of homes, cars, 200 year old cypress trees, roots and all, and mud. Awful, stinky, toxic mud that piled up into the homes that were left standing. Yet, my little corner of the neighborhood dodged a bullet, and we are unscathed by the hand of darkness that ruined the houses beyond us. There has been plenty to do and for me it looked like collecting a newborn fawn whose mother abandoned her amidst the chaos. Texas A&M had an emergency vet clinic at the high school. Very helpful. They were able to rehydrate her and send her off to a wildlife rehabber to join countless other orphans. Wildlife had joined in our life interrupted. Even now I hear a heron calling to a mate whose nest was most likely in a tall cypress that was destroyed. A kitten appeared on the road, barely able to avoid the cars, starving and displaced. She has found a good home and a loving person to care for her.
Since I see each experience as an opportunity to awaken, I am spending my quiet time reflecting on what this experience means to me personally. Why was I here at this time and place? How was it my good fortune to have been spared the brutal impact of the river’s violence. How do I respond to the layers of fears and emotions that I find flowing through my body flooding into my consciousness. The anxiety that kept me vigilant that night has stayed inside me. It fights to stay alive as the exhaustion sets in. I work to release the anxiety, all the while thinking about how the disaster will change the lives of so many people here and wondering just how it will change mine.
July 21. It has been seven weeks after the now named Memorial Day flood. My cats have resumed their routines as have many townspeople. After all, how else can one heal from the traumas of life. Yet, early this morning I felt the low rumble of two massively huge trucks work their way around our narrow lane to the mountains of crumpled cement and rebar that remain after the foundations of the ruined houses were jack-hammered loose from their peaceful perches above the riverbanks. The trucks have their own cranes and can carry the weight of the heavy debris. I wonder how much of it all can be reused as fill or whatever. How careful we are to recycle and in one horrendous moment, everything becomes trash. Like the tsunami in Japan washing up on the Pacific coast of the US months later. How do I hold the futility of it all in balance with throwing the next plastic bottle into the recycle bin. I remember Ram Dass giving a lecture many years ago on “how to keep your heart open in hell.” I thought that I understood that concept but here it was again. I feel the shock wearing off and yet I have a deep vulnerability that lives in my cells and calls out for understanding and a rebirth of my perspective of being in the world. My life has been about awakening to new perspectives as change spins me like the planet spiraling through the cosmos. Always perceiving moments with new awareness, revisiting memories and feelings to alter them into the Present. The flood has whisked me into it’s powerful jet of water and sent me out of control down the stream into uncharted channels of my consciousness.
Conditions are improving gradually in cyclone- and flood-affected districts of coastal Odisha. But the situation in many places of Ganjam district remains grim. The catastrophe has been called the worst in living memory for Odisha. Our disaster response team is still on the scene and, as the roads are being cleared, is now able to reach remote areas to care for the animals.
As well as direct feeding of animals, we have also handed over food to village authorities and community groups so they can continue to feed stray hungry animals in their villages until the situation returns to normal. We are making good progress, but there is still so much to do.
October 29, 2013:
We conducted relief work in the worst affected villages of Niakanthapur, giving relief to 55 animals. We are thankful to the local Sarpanch for providing a country boat so we could get around.
October 30, 2013:
Today we visited Dandisahi village, which was still marooned by surrounding floodwaters. Our rescue team moved from door to door. We fed and treated 51 animals and gave out leaflets about the importance of hygiene in preventing disease outbreaks.
October 31, 2013:
We covered the area around Bhagirathpur village in the Chhatrapur block, of Ganjam district. Our team worked together with a vet team from Chhatrapur block and a WTI (Wildlife Trust of India)/IFAW team to feed and treat 54 animals.
November 1, 2013:
It was another long working day for APOWA’S disaster rescue team. We gave food and treatment to 127 animals in Mahanadapur village of the Chhatrapur block, of Ganjam district. We are grateful for the help of our amazing volunteers, who responded quickly on the first day of the disaster and who are still working alongside us.
November 2, 2013:
Today we remained at Mahanadpur village, continuing relief work for a second day Our team reached 140 animals with food and medical treatment. The footprint of the devastation is huge. Now the situation is slowly improving, and it is possible to reach many remote villages which were previously cut off without any access.
November 3, 2013:
Our team is hard at work in the devastated areas of Ganjam and Kendrapara district. We treated 77 surviving animals in Biripur village, including dogs, cats, cows, and bulls.
November 4, 2013:
We visited Manikpatana village in the Aul block, which was hit by the cyclone and then by floods. We gave food and vet care to the animals and showed the villagers how to use the medicines, explaining the dosages that need to be administered, so we could leave supplies with them for the long-term care of the animals. Our team, headed by Dr Laxman Behera, treated 61 animals.
Flooding near Shantipada village.
November 5, 2013:
We conducted relief work in Shantipada village. Our team treated 62 animals including dogs, cows, and bulls.
November 6, 2013:
Our disaster response team of volunteers, vet techs, and veterinarians, all working together, doing rounds of the streets of Sidhabali village, checked, treated, and gave food to 53 animals.
November 7, 2013:
Our team spent the whole day providing vet care to injured or sick cows, bulls, buffaloes, dogs, cats, and other animals in Jagannathpur village. People were happy to see us and eagerly brought injured and sick animals to our treatment camp. Several village people volunteered to help and worked alongside our team to treat stray dogs, bulls, and cats in their village. 58 animals were treated today.
From Cats to Dogs to Stray Bulls…
Ever since cyclone Phailin devastated 18 coastal districts of Odisha on October 12, 2013, APOWA’s disaster response team has been helping afflicted animals, victims of the cyclone and the terrible floods that followed. Thousands of animals are silent victims of this catastrophe. Even now, our rescue team is continuing to help make life better for the animals including dogs, cats, bulls, cows, goats, sheep, and donkeys. We educate villagers about disease-prevention measures and post-disaster care, and hand out leaflets in the local language. We are committed to the well being of these suffering animals and will continue our cyclone and flood relief work until the situation improves.
We would like to thank Help Animals India, HSI-India, WTI/IFAW, Harmony Fund, and Singhvi Charitable Trust for their support in this hour of need to provide relief and rescue efforts to the animal victims of the cyclone and floods. Local community volunteers are stepping forward as part of this response.
We are grateful to all who have shown concern for the animals, and we are confident that their compassion will help the affected villages move forward — not only in the wake of this particular effort, but that this will lay the groundwork for an increased sensitivity to animal welfare throughout the community in the days and months ahead.
Many groups have been very hard at work, in the midst of ongoing floods, rescuing, feeding and providing vet care to animals following cyclone Phailin. Among them is The Maitri Club.
Due to the cyclone and power cuts, Kailash Ch Maharana, Chairman of the Maitri Club, writes that it has been impossible for him, until now, to receive or send emails.
They are located in the District of Ganjam, 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from Gopalpur, where cyclone Phailin stuck the sea coast of Orissa, India.
He writes, “Here the situation is horrible.”
On October 12, just before the storm struck, they safely evacuated all the cattle from 13 villages. The cattle are still feeling unsettled and greatly stressed.
Immediately after the cyclone, they were unable to move for two days due to fallen trees. After the 14th, they rounded up ten volunteers and set about helping the animals. Their transportation is by motorbike, and for the rescued cattle, they are distributing food that they had earlier set aside and kept in storage.
One bright spot was that on the evening of October 12, one of the cows they had evacuated, who belonged to a poor farmer, gave birth to a calf. As they heard the roar of the wind pick up, they had all been afraid that the cow or her calf might not survive, but they’re both doing well, and at the height of the storm, during windspeeds of 260 kilometers an hour (161 miles per hour), she gave birth to her calf.
Kailash Ch Maharana’s own house is right by Baghua River, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Odisha’s capital, Bhubaneswar. On October 12, the river flooded all around them, and they were stranded for a day and a half. The power is still off, and not expected to be back on for another 20 days. He writes, “A big banyan tree has fallen on our office.”
From October 14 onwards, as soon as they were able to travel, they repaired 260 damaged structures in 20 villages of the Ganjam District, and set up 170 sheets of polythene as temporary protection for the animals.
The government rescuers have so far been able only to help humans and have not provided any assistance to animals. There is an urgent need for fodder for the cows and for more polythene sheeting for shelter for the animals. On October 23 and 24, a low pressure system moved in, bringing heavy downpours of rain, which made their work very difficult and did not help anyone’s spirits.
Kailash tried for seven days to get on the internet to send an email, and at last succeeded at a bank.
In this trying situation, the Maitri Club staff and volunteers continue their courageous work, doing their best to provide feed, shelter, and care for the many displaced animals.
Among many other groups that have been helping animals, in the wake of the cyclone, are Wildlife SOS, Wildlife Trust of India, APOWA, and VSPCA. Hundreds of young and adult Asian openbill storks, blown out of their nests in the storm, are being treated and cared for. Wildlife rehabilitator, Saleem Hameed, (sponsored by People for Animals) has been training some of the rescuers in the proper care and feeding of the wild storks.
To visit the Maitri Club’s website or to donate, click here.
Other organizations may be reached through their websites: