Gopal Madhavan, VU2GMN, the president of the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI) — India’s International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society — has told ARRL that Amateur Radio is assisting with communication in the wake of severe flooding in and around India’s fourth-largest city, Chennai. A net has been established on 7.070 MHz, and repeaters are also operational, he said. A lack of electrical power in most areas has hampered the Amateur Radio response, as batteries in portable gear already have discharged. Madhavan said many areas were cut off, and some hams have not been able to evacuate. Mobile telephone service was out for a time but is slowly being restored. Travel by motor vehicle is impossible, Madhavan said, and three main bridges separating the north and south sides of the city were closed, making movement impossible on those routes.
“Efforts are being made to garner more hams into relief activity as soon as they are able to move out of their locales,” Madhavan told ARRL yesterday evening. “The situation is grim.”
According to news reports from India, flood victims are being evacuated by watercraft — some with the help of the Indian Navy or government relief agencies — or are simply walking through the deep floodwaters, sometimes holding belongings or small children.
In a subsequent update, Madhavan said he anticipates a more coordinated Amateur Radio response soon. He said a control center for Amateur Radio operations will be set up, as soon as hams are able to move out.
“Since water is receding slowly, we will be able to do more,” he added.
Hams associated with the Indian Institute of Hams (IIH) have set up a station at the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board office in Jalabhavan, to assist in Chennai flood relief efforts.
News media reports in India indicate that although the rain has stopped, many parts of Chennai remain underwater and it is difficult to obtain food and necessary supplies. Passenger rail service is being routed to take flood victims to other locations, and the airport in Chennai is expected to be back in operation on Saturday, according to news accounts.