Singaporean actor helps Chennai flood relief efforts and raises $1,700
S'porean actor who flew to Chennai saw the flood and stayed to help
He was flying into Chennai on his birthday on Dec 1.
But Singaporean Gunalan Morgan got a big surprise when he arrived at the city that had just been hit by the worst downpour in a century.
Thousands of people are homeless after the floods that have claimed at least 280 lives.
Despite pleas from his worried family to return to Singapore, the actor decided to stay and help the flood victims.
"My family wanted me to take the next flight to Bangalore and return to Singapore immediately. But when I saw how bad the flood and the situation were, I decided to stay and help," he said.
Mr Gunalan, 33, who is famous for his role as a police inspector in the Tamil TV drama Vettai, said he had his first inkling that something was wrong was when his plane circled the airport for an hour due to torrential rains.
As soon as it landed, he saw that the airport was already knee-deep in muddy water.
Transport became a big issue, not just because of the flood but because people were also raising prices for their services. In the end, he called a friend who gave him a ride to his accommodation.
Mr Gunalan had flown to Chennai to meet some directors, but he ended up contacting some friends in the city, who hooked him up with Chennai resident Siva Kumar, who was leading a group of volunteers in relief efforts.
The next day, along with 20 other volunteers from Chennai,Mr Gunalan joined Mr Siva and travelled to parts of the city to distribute food and drinking water to the residents who had lost their homes.
In the area of Saidapet alone, the team distributed 2,500 food items and water packets.
Mr Gunalan also made an appeal for donations on his Facebook page. Together with the Indian volunteers, he managed to collect more than 82,000 rupees (S$1,700) from donors in Singapore and Chennai.
Undeterred by lack of rest and despite often being on the receiving end of residents' frustrations, Mr Gunalan, who has spent a week in the city, said he tried to keep an open mind.
"Some of them can be violent because they are frustrated with the situation," he said.
"But at the same time, a crisis can bring out the best in people and make them do amazing things for complete strangers.
"I saw people giving out free rides, sharing umbrellas and raincoats, shops giving out free food packets and hot tea. It was truly an enlightening experience."
Mr Siva, 27, said that Mr Gunalan had been a great help.
"I didn't expect to bump into such a great person. He collected funds from Singapore to buy blankets, food and water for the residents here. We're very thankful to him," he said.
One of the biggest challenges Mr Gunalan faced was the lack of cellular network and Internet access.
"During the peak of the flood, I couldn't call anyone, so everything became old school - if I wanted to find someone, I had to look for the house," he said.
When The New Paper contacted his wife Maya Gunalan yesterday, she expressed her support.
Said the mother of two: "When he first told me that he was going to stay in Chennai to help, I was very worried. But he keeps me in the loop about the situation.
"Sometimes I can't talk to him for the entire day because the network is down, so I worry if he has eaten or whether he slept well."
"But I am sure my husband knows how to take care of himself," she added proudly.
My family wanted me to take the next flight to Bangalore and return to Singapore immediately. But when I saw how bad the flood and the situation were, I decided to stay and help.
- Mr Gunalan Morgan
S'porean stuck in Chennai: We bought whatever was on shelf
TRAPPED: Operations manager Ruzaini Roslan (left) was in Chennai for business when the city was hit by flash floods. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUZAINI ROSLAN
He had no cellular network or Wi-Fi and was running out of food.
This was the situation Mr Ruzaini Roslan, 29, found himself in when he was stuck in Chennaiduring the Indian city's worst downpour in a century.
The Singaporean operations manager, who lives in Melbourne, has been there since Nov 28 for business.
He was staying at ITC Grand Chola hotel in south-west Chennai with five other colleagues when the city was badly hit by flash floods on Dec 1.
"It didn't stop raining on the first day, so we decided to leave the office early. Fortunately, we reached the hotel before the flash floods started," he said.
The hotel basement was flooded and guests were told that if the water went up to the second level where the power generators are, the electricity would be cut off.
For the next two days, the hotel was in a bit of a "blackout".
"We had no access to the outside world. Our company sent someone to assist us, so he was the only one who updated us about whatever was happening," said Mr Ruzaini.
"On the second day of the floods, we were told that the hotel was running out of power as the diesel truck for the generators couldn't get there, so the air-conditioner, Wi-Fi and phone networks were all switched off," said Mr Ruzaini.
By then, the group decided that they had to conserve food and water. They filled the room's bathtub with water just in case it ran out and kept the door open when it got hot and stuffy.
The hotel provided an abundance of bottled water to guests, but Mr Ruzaini realised that they had to stock up on food just in case the floods got worse. But he and his colleagues did not have much money left.
"All the ATMs were not working and the only one that worked was a four-and-a-half hour wait in line," said Mr Ruzaini, who had been in Chennai for more than a week.
"Before it could get any worse, my colleagues and I pooled whatever money we had.
"Two of us went to the only shop that was open nearby and bought a heap of cup noodles and whatever food that was left on the shelf."
He told The New Paper that his experience was nothing compared to what his colleagues who live in Chennai went through.
"Some of them came by the hotel to bathe and charge their phones. The floods really wrecked their homes. They told me that the water level in their house was chest-deep and it had snakes in it," he said.
Mr Ruzaini said the experience has put things into perspective, adding: "On Thursday night, I went out of the hotel to get some fresh air and the roads were so quiet. It felt eerie, there was no hustle and bustle, it didn't feel like India."
The rain stopped two days ago so the water level has receded.
"After having my flight cancelled twice, I cannot wait to be home now that the city's airport is operating again," said Mr Ruzaini.
Chennai to start major post-flood clean-up
The southern Indian city of Chennai is expecting a major clean-up a week after it was hit by the worst flooding in a century.
With water receding from most parts of Tamil Nadu state, the focus is now on clearing parts of the city that was filled with waste and muck left behind by the floods.
BBC quoted reports that soldiers and emergency workers are rushing food, clean drinking water and medical supplies to flood-hit residents.
Chennai airport was fully operational on Monday for both domestic and international flights, but there were only 21 departures and 21 arrivals, according to The Hindu newspaper.
Thousands of residents have been rescued from the devastating floods which claimed nearly 300 lives across the state since Nov 9, reported AFP.