Dec 09, 2015

Surfers rescue people in the second wave of Chennai floods

The surfing community stepped in again to help rescue victims affected by a second wave of floods in Chennai, South India last week.


Melvin Michael

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A team of surfers from The Bay of Life Surf School and Covelong Point Surf School rescued approx 1000 people in the flood hit parts of Chennai.

The Southern Indian city of Chennai was hit by a second wave of floods last week, leaving at least 280 people dead and many injured.

“I had never witnessed something like this before; I have been living in Chennai for the last 35 years and the devastation caused by the floods is the worst ever,” said Showkath Jamal, founder of Bay Of Life surf school.

The low pressure weather system (El Nino) in the Bay of Bengal that caused unseasonal heavy rains in the coastal city of Chennai has led to flash floods in different parts of the city. The second wave of floods was caused by incessant rains on 1st December.

In the wake of this unprecedented disaster the surfing community has put their skills to rescue flood-affected victims.

After rescuing over 200 girls from a flooded college hostel in Medavakkam village near Chennai, Covelong Point’s surfers rescued approx 350 people stuck in the flooded area of Kelambakkam, a suburb in Chennai.

Covelong Point Surfers in Chennai after rescue

The Bay of Life Surf School surfers carried out an intensive rescue operation to tackle the second  wave of the floods. The surfers had already rescued 1200 people in the first wave of the floods on 16th and 17th November.

A team of 15 people led by Showkath Jamal, the founder of Bay of Life Surf School, rescued almost 500 people over the next three days, 2nd to 5th December.

2nd December 2015

The 15-member team managed to access one of the arterial roads in the city, Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) after being stuck on the flooded roads with their fishing boats and paddle boards overnight. “We decided to start our rescue operation on OMR as it is one of the main arterial roads in Chennai and a lot of people were stuck. The road was clogged with rain water and cars floating everywhere” Showkath Jamal told The Outdoor Journal over the phone.

The team managed to rescue almost 150 people in the surrounding area using fishing boats and paddle boards.

3rd December 2015 


Bay of Life surfers in action
Shyan from Bay of Life in action


Showkath Jamal further informed The Outdoor Journal that the biggest challenge for the team was the rescue operation executed on Thursday earlier this week. The team rescued almost 250 people who were stuck in MIOT, a super specialty hospital in Manapakkam area. According to Showkath the hospital suffered loss of power due to water infiltration in the basement that held the generators for the hospital. He also added that the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital became dysfunctional due to loss of power and approximately 18 patients lost their lives.

Selvam from Bay of Life rescues a two month old baby

The hospital is located in the Kanjipuram district, known as the lakes district of the city. According to sources the hospital was cut off and unattended for 48 hours before the Navy and the NDRF personnel arrived on scene.

“It was a challenging day for us. We rescued as many as 250 people which included patients and dead bodies from the hospital. We had to be extra careful as we had to tackle flowing water here. We were at a risk of getting washed away into the closest lake or river, but with the help of our team and other friends ” said the zoologist turned surfer.

4th December 2015

After the flood waters had receded the team took to distributing food, medicines and relief items to the victims in the worst affected areas such as Pallikarnai and Kamakotinagar.

Pallikaranai is a marshland area situated on the west of the city. The marshland which was around 50-60sq km of geological depression in the last decade has been reduced to 4-7 sq kms due to excessive urban development.

The second wave of floods

The southern coast of India has been experiencing high intensity rainfall since early November. The incessant rain has been triggered by a depression, low pressure weather system (El-Nino) in the Bay of Bengal. The first wave of floods hit the low lying areas of Pallikarnai and Perungalathur and the southern lake district of Kanchipuram.

madhu action
Madhu from Bay of Life team during the rescue operation

However the waters receded in the last week of November as the rains stopped. But on 1st December the rains started again. According to the MeT department the rainfall recorded between 8.30 am on 1st Dec and 8.30 am on 2nd Dec was 330mm whereas the normal average rainfall for Chennai in a week would be around 100-110mm.

Kumaran a geologist for Cairn India and a paddler/advisor to the Bay of Life Surf School told The Outdoor Journal “The second wave of floods affected a much bigger area than the first time. Even the core areas of the city were flooded. And to make things worse the communication channels got disrupted.”

Feature Image: Bay of Life Surf School