At Ground Zero.....

Many of you might have heard about the catastrophe the city of Visakhapatnam faced recently. Hudhud was a giant cyclone which none of us expected it to be so dangerous and devastating. We all heard of cyclones as giant as Hudhud flying off to the adjacent states and leaving only trails of heavy rains. Infact, the city has never seen something so devastating since past 25 years. This is clearly evident from the fully grown trees which could have aged more than 30 seen till before Hudhud. So, the day when the alerts were made in the TV channels and news papers, everyone thought it would not effect Vizag as was the case with Phailin last year. But it proved completely different. The city faced a death blow.

The day before, (11th October) all the evacuation jobs were being carried out by the government very effectively. All the colleges and institutions were issued holidays as a precautionary. Being a Saturday a holiday for our research centre, I was on an invitation to deliver a talk on Swarm Intelligence at a near by engineering college. The student turn up was very less even though there were no signs of cyclone in the morning, no drizzles either. It seemed to be of a less concern to other students who attended the lecture. After my lecture for the first 2 hours in the morning, the students were sent home and I had to rush to the city in getting the transcripts of one of my cousins. I had to book an auto guy for the whole day to get along with those long travelling jobs. The jobs consumed my lunch and I had to eat very less due to urgency. By then drizzles started and the winds were not so powerful. After the job I returned home in the same auto which is 20 Km away from the main city. I had a long chat with the auto driver on the way home talking about the possibilities of the cyclone. During the conversation, the driver promised me to take to very good scenic places around Vizag when ever I go free including the very famous Indira Gandhi Zoological park which is on the way to my house. 
The whirl.......Source: Wikipedia

I stay in a flat in 5th floor of my apartment. Being a guest house, I was allotted the room with an attached balcony, which opens up to a beautiful scenic surroundings. A beautiful temple adjacent to my apartment gives the most serene and blissfull feeling everyday. As usual there were all regular  rituals offered to the gods that day also.

The beautiful Ashtalakshmi temple besides my flat as seen from my balcony.
After I returned home, it seemed not so serious till late evening. There were people visiting the temple as usual. But the winds were getting fierce every now and then. Then there was this real problem. I had no breakfast in the morning and a very little lunch. I was waiting to have a heavy meal in the night to compensate for the loss. And so, I started walking to a gorcery store half a kilometer away and was making calls to friends on the way. I bought some rice and dal to cook in my electric cooker for the night along with some curd. While returning, the rain got heavier, at around 7 in the evening. I ran home and got to my room.

The real trouble was was just when I wanted to cook, the power went off. 

The winds were getting more powerful, but that was normal during heavy rains. There was no power, and I was talking to my mom on phone. I couldnt realise that the battery was getting drained and was going to be a hard time ahead. I could eat no food except for some biscuits and a drink bottle with some Haldiram snacks. I could feel the glucose levels going low in my body. Slowly, I fell asleep. 

I woke up all of a sudden in the mid night at around 2 AM with loud whistling sounds of the wind. It wasn't completely dark outside, it was blue when I peeped through my window. I could see the coconut trees far off swaying with the strong winds. Then I looked at my phone to realise that it had just 3% of charge. The network was good then, and so I logged into facebook to update my status of the condition and also pinged a few close friends to let them know that I may not be able to contact them. Still, I couldnt estimate that it would be even more worse. 
I was all alone in the house. I slowly fell into a deep slumber until the doors started hitting badly at around 7 in the morning. The wind was ferocious. With the kind of experience I gained through my experiments with the winds, my estimate of the speeds was around 150 Kmph. I had to push the doors hard and close all the windows in the apartment one by one like fighting against a sumo wrestler. Still, the doors were knocking against those little gaps in the grooves. 

I was sitting on my bed eating another packet of biscuits. My glucose level was getting even more worse and my vision was getting blurred. It was then I realised, I had ready mix noodles stock and all that I needed was a glass of hot water. I got down the stairs fighting the winds, with a plastic glass in my pocket for tea and the ready mix glass in the other pocket. I could find no one in the apartment, outside. Finally after a strong battle with the winds, I got to the watchman's house and got a glass of hot water on their gas stove, mixed it with the noodles and had it all. 

After gaining conciousness I realised there were a few people sitting as a group at a corner in the cellar of the apartment. They were from the shack adjacent to our apartment, which got blown away by the winds and were sitting there to save themselves from the fierce winds. There were sitting in a group praying for their lives. While I tried reaching them, I was pushed tens of yards by the fierce winds getting constricted at the cellar (that reminded me of equation of continuity). They were all shattered, crestfallen, loosing hopes of recovering from the damage they had. They lost their megre earnings to the winds. I could say nothing but listen to their grief stricken words. They cried and cried and cried and some slept with tears. 

Lost Shacks....
I pushed myself back to my apartment and it was 12 Noon by then.,the time the cyclone was expected to cross the shore. The winds were tremendous, they took a few fat pigs flying, uprooted many trees far off, all leaves washed off the trees and the electric poles were bent. There were strong whistles around, strong ghusts often knocking me off my balcony, the pressure was dropping, I was being pushed into the wind and Our building was vibrating.  The pressures were dropping further and the winds grew more fierce. By then my estimation of speeds was around 240 Kmph (which later was proven correct). My ears were paining due to low pressure. Every thing was hitting against each other.  Then, I could realise, I was in the eye of the cyclone. There was no rain, the clouds were circling very fast in the sky. It was bright, the pressure was low, it was the eye of the most disastrous cyclone......Hudhud

There was another battle inside, I was alone, no one to speak and no one to even save if I get hurt, it was a nightmare. The food I ate was just sufficient and I could still feel the weakness after a long fasting. I was getting week slowly. Then was losing concious due to drop in glucose levels. There was nothing to eat, only some water to wet my throat. The wind never stopped and broke a closed window. Broke open the main door of the house, which was later on supported with huge iron carts to hold on. The wind started to change its direction, this time it was hitting my bed room windows directly, And there was rain with huge water drops. Given the speed of the wind, the drops were flying horizontal and hitting like rain of bullets on my room window. Inspite of all this clamour, I slipped into the bed with cotton plugs in ears, pillows over head and almost lost concious. 

Again, the winds woke me up breaking open another door in the apartment. The moment I had my feet on the floor, it was all water filling all my feet and covering three fourth of my legs. I was helpless, clueless and weak. I mixed some sugar in water and had it put up glucose levels and dragged myself to the watchman against the winds and rain, to get some help. But, everyone were in their own troubles and all that I could get was a floor mop, a rubber wipe and a broom. 

I started pushing the water slowly off my balcony in the cyclone, but then it was getting darker. There was no power, no food and the building was vibrating to the fierce winds. I had no energy even to pray to god, I had no energy for thoughts either. I was blank. I dragged downstairs expecting to keep myself alive with some ones help. Went down to find more people added to the group in the morning in the cellar. They all lost their homes, there was no food, no water and no shelter. 

At that moment, all I had in my mind was, they are in trouble and I could only do a small thing from my side. I offered them to stay in my house. A little gesture and with a hope that I would be taken care incase I fall for hunger. But, what happened next brought tears in my eyes. I offered them shelter, and they offered me food. They could secure some vessels and stoves from their house and make some rice for me along with them. All that I could offer them was a little shelter to sleep that night. I added some pickle my mom gave and some curd I bought the day before and ate like an idiot. They also helped me clear water in the house. And finally we all slept expecting safety for each other, while the cyclone was taking its stakes.

After math.... to be continued.....


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