It was the roar of rushing water that woke up the Felix family in their house in Saidapet at 6 am on December 2.
The overflowing Chembarambakkam Lake had breached and its waters had started overflowing. Felix and his school teacher wife Sulabha climbed to the roof of their two-storey apartment in Little Mount area to see where the noise of rushing water was coming from. They soon realised that most of their neighbours had fled in the night.
With an 80-year-old cancer afflicted mother to look after, the family took a decision to stay put at their apartment complex despite the surging waters that flooded the family’s ground floor garage and climbed the staircase to the first floor flats.
“We saw the water rising. We realised that only a retired couple living in the first floor house opposite our flat was still in the colony. I asked the elderly gentleman what we should do and he said we should wait it out. When rescue boats came, we did not board them to go to the shelters. The rising water forced us to move to the second floor apartment of my husband’s brother,” said Sulabha.
“We kept watching the water inching up the stairs to the first floor through Wednesday. When it began receding that night, we were relieved. Even if we accepted the rescue offer, there was nowhere we could have gone,” said Felix.
With the power supply knocked off in the area since December 1, the family has been living in darkness.
The chance purchase of a large supply of provisions on the day the lake water was released helped the family of four brothers, their kin and a pet dog get through four days of isolation in the apartment block.
“All cars parked in the ground floor garage are ruined. They were under water for over 24 hours,” said Felix. “Refrigerators and cupboards from first floor homes were floating around in the water. It is going to take a long time for people to re-establish normalcy in their lives,” said Sulabha.
In Little Mount area, dozens trucks are parked on street corners distributing relief material — from sarees and t-shirts to food, water and blankets — for flood-hit people.
“The supply of relief material and food is good but what I really want is my home back,” said Vijaya, a resident of the still marooned Rampoorna Nagar in the suburbs of Chennai, who has been staying in a private school that has been converted into a temporary shelter.