One hour of torrential rains and everything in this major urban centre of the so-called developed world came to a standstill!
Yes, it was the heaviest rainfall of 126mm to fall on this city. But mind you it was not some sweeping flood, it was low-lying areas getting inundated in a matter of minutes. But it is astounding that everyone from an individual to an organization, a neighbourhood, a city and a region didn’t just know what to do at an unexpected natural occurrence. So much for being part of a developed country!
It seems like we as a province have not learned from the August 2003 blackout that left millions of people in the dark for up to two days. While that was caused by a software bug, the outage on July 8 was clearly caused by the change in the weather, thanks to global warming.
Imagine if the power outage were to continue for many hours. There are no back-up `generators’ for apartment buildings here, that we are so used to back in India. Stuck in high-rise apartments, many couldn’t get out of their units. They couldn’t cook and feed their children that Monday night sans electricity.
Everything else stood exposed in a matter of hours. Including the crumbing infrastructure.
It began to rain sometime around 4pm and stopped around 5pm, making all the 9-5ers happy they could still make it to home on time or might face some reasonable delays. But that was not to be. The delay stretched from an hour to even five or six hours, depending on where they lived and how they commuted.
Isn’t it shocking that this considerably short spell of rain created havoc – flooding, a widespread power outage and all-round chaos across the region?
The media was all over the place, reporting stories of ‘heroism’ like people returning snails displaced during the floods to their natural habitat or lifting many who were `stuck’ in ankle-to-knee-deep water! But these same media people would have gone to town if this were to happen in Delhi or Mumbai.
Seeing the collapse of the whole system and people’s panic when there was no sweeping flood except low-lying areas getting inundated made one appreciate how Indian cities and its people are miles ahead in coping with such disasters.
Having lived in big cities like Delhi ad Mumbai and Chennai, many of us know flooding and subsequent traffic chaos and outages. But that `third-worldly’ system never crumbles like it did in here in the First World. And people over there don’t panic and deal with such situations calmly. Very frankly, many of us have not seen anything like this back in India that we saw this week here in Toronto.
Imagine, if something similar to what often happens in that third-world India were to happen here, people would start dying of panic, if nothing else.
The climate-caused chaos has definitely helped us who grew up in India to appreciate the resilience we cultivated to overcome situations such as this. Even here in the GTA during the Monday rains you could witness groups of Indians lightheartedly chatter while others were visibly panic struck, while waiting for shuttle buses.
Even immigrants drivers who are often criticized as terrible drivers and rule breakers were lauded for their cautious driving as traffic lights had conked and the four-way stop rule was expected to be maintained.
This perhaps the first time thousands of GTA residents were stranded in trains, subways, bus stops, in their cars on roads and of course, highways.
For Indians, this was definitely an eyeopener – that the developed country we live in is barely prepared for a major emergency, and that India and Indians are better prepared in many ways.
(With inputs from various people who were out on Monday)