Snakes and waist-high water: Surviving 40 hours in the Kerala floods

Thirty-two-year-old Naveen Murali is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode and group brand manager at Asian Paints in Mumbai. He, along with his parents, was stuck at their home in Aluva, Ernakulam, during the Kerala flood. Here he narrates his ordeal.

I work in Mumbai, and I was in Kochi for a meeting. I had a flight scheduled back for the night of Aug. 15. It got cancelled because water had begun entering the Kochi airport by that morning. But I didn’t expect anything bad.

Somewhere around 7pm is when we suddenly saw water on the road leading to our house. By that time, it had come up to knee-deep. We couldn’t even drive out. Still, we felt it was possibly an anomaly. Kerala gets a lot of rain. We stayed indoors.

We stayed indoors thinking the water might go down.

But by 11pm, we had water getting into the ground floor of our house. Between 8pm and 9pm, we had anyway started moving some of our stuff to the first floor. We moved some of the essentials, some electronics. The furniture was on the ground floor. By morning the water was almost waist-high on the ground floor. There was no way out.

We were trying to figure out how to escape. One of the neighbours said they would walk to the main road and figure out what to do next. Now, my mom has a problem with her back and her leg, so even normally she can’t walk much. But we packed our bags around 10am on day two and actually came downstairs. The water was almost waist-high and I did not know how my mom would walk.

That’s when we actually saw a small snake, so I thought it was too risky and we went back upstairs.

We began calling all the rescue numbers; they were all engaged. I was checking online. Day two was the worst; everyone was in distress, it was raining, water levels were rising.

One of our relatives was with the local TV channel and another was with Doordarshan (India’s state-run TV channel). They contacted us and asked us to make a video so that they could put it on their channel. I made a video for them and shared it on WhatsApp, giving our details and location; I posted the same video on Facebook, sharing our status with some photos.

This video went viral. And after around four hours, people finally began calling me.

Our hopes were really high. We got calls from the Ernakulam control room as well as the state capital control room, and the police bureau. We were like, okay, this is all over.

And then nothing happened. It’s possible the number of boats was less at that time.

I figured our only hope was the helicopters. We got a large stick and tied a red cloth to it and waved it in the air on the terrace. Towards the end of the day, we realised even that’s not working, so we got (steel) plates and banged them as somebody online said high-frequency sound might be heard. We got a torch and flashed it from the terrace. We tried all of this but nothing happened.

We were hoping that once it gets dark, we’ll possibly catch their attention. We even burnt papers, hoping the helicopters would notice a fire or the smoke. Nothing happened. We did not know that no rescue operations happen once it gets dark.

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