Wednesday, January 03, 2007

HFL = High Flood Level

Well, Happy New Year!

After a long vacation related hiatus, I'm back. Before I left for India I wasn't sure I would want to blog while on vacation, but I figured I would probably find something to write about. And while I certainly had things to relate, I really had no desire to do so. And so a month and a half passes by like *that!*

Anyways, I start off the new year with photos. And the first photo is the simplest of them all:

My hometown in India is in Surat, Gujarat (well, it's technically Bardoli which is 30km away, but let's not nitpick since I was actually born in Surat and the majority of my relatives live there too). Over the years, Surat has had its share of problems, like riots, the plague, and flooding. Last August Surat saw the flood to end all floods. Days and days of water up to 30 feet deep.

And yet, you can't tell anything of the sort happened just 5 months ago. Except for these crude markers all over the city. They're marks of history and resilience. This specific marker was about 15 feet off the ground, but they range from just 2 feet off the ground all the way up to 30 feet. And where ever you go, the City has painted reminders of what happened in early August. What's more is that people are proud of what they've overcome. So much so that even if they re-paint the outside of their buildings to erase the marks of rain, flooding, and wear and tear, they still leave an untouched box around the marker to ensure everyone remembers just how high the water came.

It's still a bit difficult to pin down exactly what happened to cause such severe flooding, but the basics are clear. Torrential monsoon rains were much heavier last summer than usual. The Ukai dam upriver from Surat was way over it's normal limits. Dam workers waited and waited to release water from the dam. And when they finally released the water, they did so in fell swoop, rather than staggering the release over time. The water reached Surat six hours later and didn't subside for at least 8 days.

Here's an editorial about how the floods could have been avoided:

This person has compiled a good set of photos from that time:

So this man-made disaster really got the best of people for while. The funny thing is that even though people were stranded without power or fresh water, they still managed to drink whiskey from rooftops every day.

Immediately after the floods, we had heard stories of mud and filth throughout the entire city of 4 million people. But arriving in town just 3 months after things dried up, I was surprised at how little seemed affected. Sure, there are still junked cars in specific areas, but life seems amazingly back to normal. The loom industry which Surat is so famous for is still running like mad. I would have figured that many looms would have been destroyed by so much water and mud, but going through the streets, you can still hear them running 24 hours a day. I heard many stories from friends & relatives about what they did during the floods. Thankfully, none of them lost anything besides some ruined property, but there were some 200 accounted deaths and likely many more uncounted deaths of those swept straight into the nearby Indian Ocean.

From the stories I had heard prior to leaving for India, I wasn't sure what to expect. Certainly some devasation would still be visible...but not a single sign except for these painted markers? Amazing. I hope to see the same reminders when I return to Surat in the future.

And so a simple photo to represent something amazing and to start 2007.

Many more photos to comes.

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