Dec 17

Updated: Hurricane (Cyclone) Vardah

What a week! This past Monday Hurricane Vardah (called a cyclone in this hemisphere) made landfall just north of Chennai near Pulicat (I like the name). It caused heavy rains and winds Monday until late in the evening. See my picture feed for some videos of what I experienced.

The cyclone caused much damage in Chennai, with tens of thousand of trees being blown down, power being disrupted in most of the city, cell towers being knocked over, and much damage to buildings and homes. Still much of Chennai is without power even 5 days later. The death toll in Tamil Nadu stands at 18.

I was scheduled to go up to the CLCI to teach in the seminary and have a pre-Christmas program with the seminary students and pastors. I had planned to drive up this past Wednesday (Dec. 14), but my driver suggested I fly instead, as the national highway we would take is along the coast was partially blocked due to downed trees and fallen toll plazas.

Flights had been cancelled Monday and Tuesday. I flew up Wednesday noon, but my flight was delayed over 2 hours because of built up traffic in Chennai (I assume). When I arrived on Wednesday evening, the Guntur area also was getting some rain (I guess I brought it with me).

With the death of Jayalalitha (who was the current Chief Minister) last week, the cyclone this week, and the previous Chief Minister going into the hospital two days ago, Chennai has been rather disrupted. Yesterday, because of the previous CM’s hospitalization, may busses did not run.

I am blessed to be staying in a complex that has diesel generators, so I had power most of these days, although there was an issue with the generator for my set of towers, perhaps caused by sub-grade diesel.  I was without any power Tuesday until late evening. An attempt to share power from the other generators during the day caused a power surge that blew out my laptop charger and two multi-port phone chargers, but that is nothing compared to the hardship and damage experienced by many in the city whose thatched huts and make-shift homes were destroyed.

How our Brothers and Sisters here have been affected

More than 25 churches in the BELC have been badly damaged (in particular the sheet metal roofs), with some churches being completely destroyed. Many of the members have also had homes damaged or destroyed by the rains and winds. Pray for all those affected.

Dec 05

I request that you stay in your room, don’t go out

This morning I received a text from the president of the BELC that read “I request you to stay in your room, don’t go out, due to the C.M. being in serious and critical condition.”

Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (the state in which Chennai is located) suffered cardiac arrest last night (Sunday, Nov 4, which was Sunday morning in the US). Here is a good article with several news videos on the situation. She has been hospitalized since Sept 22 with health issues.

The WhatsApp group for the residents of the towers in which I reside had a message this morning about not going outside and recommending to stockpile extra food and water and to not travel. The person said that all school and colleges will be closed tomorrow. Another person posted recommendations based on what was sent to local police which also recommended getting extra food and avoiding going out after 9 am (did he really mean am or did he mean pm?) for 2-3 days.

I spent some time in the morning filling up water bottles and my reverse-osmosis filter tank (which holds 10 liters) so I will be sure to have water in case the complex runs out of water (the water is delivered by water trucks, which may not continue to run).

The state had elections several weeks ago. As we were driving back from a training along a road which we often take, Kumar said there had been vandalism along that road the night before because of the elections. All along a mile or two stretch there was shattered glass in the street and along the side of the road where vehicle windows had been bashed in. While we were going to the training I saw some of the glass on the road and though there had been an accident (but there seems to be a lot of glass).

Kumar, is currently at his native place (i.e. home town) with his family. He is scheduled to come back Wednesday. Pray that he and his family will make it back safelyThe one resident said that busses and trains will not be running. If not, he and his family may not be able to come back when planned.

As the pastors here are busy during this Christmas season, I do not have anything planned until next week when I go up to the CLCI for a training and pre-Christmas celebration. Where I am staying is outside the city, far away from the hospital, so I would assume any unrest would not be near here.

In any case, please pray for the situation here. Life is already difficult due to the withdrawal of 86% of the money from circulation and the scarcity of new bills. Political unrest will only compound the situation.

UPDATE: According to a press release Jayalitha passed away at 11:30pm (IST) Monday, Dec. 5). Tamil Nad has declared a state-wide 3-day school and college holiday (Dec. 6-8).