Flood disaster in India - hams provide help

When the torrential rain fell for several days in South India, numerous areas were flooded. Authorities, hundreds of houses submerged, and the death toll was at about 300 and rising.

Gopal Madhavan VU2GMN reported that some areas had 3 to 4 metres of water which meant that all ground floor houses were inundated and owners lost everything. He said the flooding hit an area of more than three million people in Chinnai, with responders from the army, navy, home guards and the national disaster action forces all involved with rescue and relief work. Hundreds of injured people were taken to hospitals.

Gopal VU2GMN said most hams were also isolated in their homes as normal passenger cars could not negotiate the high waters. He also reported that the power supply was cut off in most areas as the electricity distribution systems were under water. The mobile phone and landlines were drastically affected.

Gopal VU2GMN said: "Once it became possible to move, hams started going out assisting with delivery of food and water to stranded individuals, and with rescue from tall buildings where people were trapped." National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India, Jayu Bhide VU2JAU put out the call for more help with emergency communications. Already a network was on two local VHF repeaters that continued to work well, and the 7.090 MHz frequency was mainly on standby for long distance work.

Jayu VU2JAU explained that traffic being handled including distribution of food, locating missing persons and other information. He said: "The number of hams has increased substantially, a control room has been established to coordinate efforts and more volunteer organisations have swung into action to provide food and water. "Many mobile ham stations are now active to become active in locations not possible earlier." Without recharging power the depletion of hand held transceiver batteries was a problem, but battery powered mobiles were able to help keep communication going.

Hams continued their work that is expected to take several days, while recovery from the disaster is likely to take a number of months. Rail services were diverted to Chennai to carry food and other essential supplies, while the nearby busy international airport was closed for a time disrupting flights, but seems to have returned to near normal. Many industries in the large city were also shut down, along with the state-run Chennai Petroleum oil refinery.

- Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman, IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee.