India

Response Bulletin Tamil Nadu Floods, 2015, (vol- 1 January issue, 2016)

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Editorial Message

A severe depression over the Bay of Bengal in early November 2015 was followed by heavy rains and flooding in several parts of coastal Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, including Chennai city. After a brief lull, the rains intensified and in early December 2015 again caused severe flooding across districts in southern Andhra Pradesh (AP) right up to Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu. The city of Chennai was badly affected with more than a million people directly affected by flash floods and overflows from lakes and reservoirs. This caused severe damage to human life and property necessitating urgent response from the government and the humanitarian community.

A key lesson learnt from disasters over the last few years by NGOs engaged in relief and recovery operations is the need to collaborate and coordinate among themselves for greater effectiveness and synergy. As soon as the depression formed over the Bay of Bengal, a warning was circulated to Inter Agency Group (IAG) members in AP and Tamil Nadu about the possibility of a cyclone or heavy rains. This helped all the partner agencies to quickly mobilise resources - both manpower and material to enable speedy response. SPHERE India played the critical role of circulating these warnings and initiating the coordinated efforts by the IAGs in both states. Joint Needs Assessments in both states helped to identify the critical areas of need. World Vision provided the office space and needed administrative support at its national office in Chennai to enable this coordinated response. An updated URS Matrix was regularly circulated among the members which gave a clear picture of the unified relief operations and scope for sharing resources.

This disaster also brought out the best - both from individuals and the corporate sector in terms of their contribution to the flood relief effort. Especially heartening was the spontaneous response of hosts of ordinary citizens opening up their homes and kitchens for the stranded and needy. Schools, colleges and other institutions were opened up to provide temporary shelter to displaced people. Cooked food was provided for many days even after the flood waters receded. In essence, this kind of humanitarian response which transcended religion, caste, ethnicity and social status, truly reflected India’s ethos and values.

Mr. Cherian Thomas
National Director, World Vision India