Chennai Citizens seek Flood Relief. Photo Courtesy of Ramakrishna Math.

The citizens of Chennai, India have begun to rebuild their lives after the months of November and December brought the heaviest rainfalls in the region’s history. Unprecedented floods swept through San Antonio’s Sister City, destroying many of the city’s schools and homes, and leaving more than 300 citizens dead.

Chennai reported 65 inches of rainfall in the space of three weeks in November– that’s more than double San Antonio’s annual rainfall.  Chennai has already proven itself a huge cultural resource and a growing economic ally to San Antonio; now San Antonio citizens can play an important role in the city’s reconstruction.

Officials from Anuja SA, a nonprofit organization that promotes the Chennai-San Antonio relationship, recently launched the Hats off Chennai from San Antonio initiative to raise funds for affected citizens and damaged infrastructure affected by the flood.

According to the initiative’s Facebook page, the organization was named as a salute to the spirit of Chennai, and symbolizes a respectful ‘tip of the hat.’ 

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Anuja SA President Kausi Subramaniam recently visited City Hall and Commissioner’s Court to raise awareness and funds for the city’s flood relief and rehabilitation efforts. Hats off Chennai has collected close to $130,000 to date, while Chennai faces an estimated $3 billion in damages. Subramaniam connected The Rivard Report with recent stories and experiences from citizens in Chennai.

“It’s been a life changing experience and we are still in rehabilitation,”said Anil Srinivasan, a well-known musician who has helped local search, rescue and relief efforts. “Lots of lessons on city planning and disaster management. But the way Chennai came together is also a great tribute to the undying spirit of the city. We thank our sister city for showing so much solidarity at our crucial hour.”

In a recent letter, Mayor Ivy Taylor reached out and offered  support and aid to Mayor Saidai Samiyappan Duraisamy and the people of Chennai. 

Chennai schools have recently reopened, thanks to the work of volunteers, while the government of Tamil Nadu has promised new textbooks, notebooks and school uniforms for students affected by the floods.  Many schools reported lost library books,  lab equipment, computers and furniture. Medical groups and public awareness initiatives are bringing people to seek health services and prevent illnesses or waterborne diseases.

Vikram Kapur, Commissioner of the Corporation of Chennai, wrote a thank-you letter to San Antonio officials and citizens for their devotion to the Sister City.

Mayor Ivy Taylor shows support for 'Hats off Chennai' with Anuja SA members. Photo by Lea Thompson.
Mayor Ivy Taylor shows support for ‘Hats off Chennai’ with Anuja SA members. Photo by Lea Thompson.

“The immediate task on hand is to help the flood-affected people get their livelihoods and homes restored,” said Kapur. “Special camps have been organised to issue duplicate documents and certificates free of cost, as well as to repair vehicles damaged during floods.”

Local companies, NGOs and the Chennai Corporation have systematically donated nearly nine million food packets and 1.2 million water bottles to people in areas affected by the flood. Still, the city has a ways to go.

“We thank the City of San Antonio in this moment of crisis, and are confident that Chennai will emerge stronger from this experience,” Kapur added. “After all we are #resilientchennai.”

Click here to make a contribution or to spread the Hats off Chennai campaign on social media. 

*Top Image: Chennai Citizens seek Flood Relief. Photo Courtesy of Ramakrishna Math.

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Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.