Chennai, Dec 6: 18-year-old Abhik Thapa, a Nepalese student at a private university here, had come to India as one of the lucky survivors of the killer April earthquake and now he is heading back to Kathmandu after having lived through the Chennai rains tragedy.
The student of genetics at the SRM University, which bore heavy brunt of the rains during the first few days, was among the several students left stranded in their hostels, after the torrential rains pounded the city last week.
Thapa and his college mates were eventually rescued by a coordinated team of defence personnel and finally brought to the Tambaram Air Base, nearly 30 km from here, before being flown to Delhi.
"My home is in Kathmandu and our family survived that massive calamity, with a little damage to our house. But, yes the disaster and the experiences thereof, of seeing Nepal get back on its feet, helped me cope with with tragedy," Thapa told PTI in Tambaram.
As per the plan, several of the rescued people after being assembled at the Tambaram Base are being taken by Mi-14 choppers in batches to the Arakkonam Naval Base, 70 km west of Chennai, and from there to different cities, mostly in C-17s.
A couple of civilian rescue flights also ferried a few hundred students in the past few days to Delhi, Bengaluru or Hyderabad.
Mumbai-native Sankalp Mohapatra, 21, was stranded for nearly three days at Chennai Airport along with several of his friends from VIT, Vellore. All of them were to catch a flight back to their hometown, little knowing that they had something else in store.
Battling choppy weather, power crisis, inundated streets and the odds, the students, with a few girls among them, survived through the tough times, keeping each other strong. "Our flight was for December 1, and after announcement of delay it was finally cancelled.
We all slept at the airport as we were expecting a replacement flight next day, but it only got worse from there.
Next day evening they shut down the electricity connection, as water was coming to the arrival side, and then by late evening it went pitch dark," Sankalp says. "We then stepped out of the airport and decided to first make way to the Coimbet bus station in Chennai, but seeing the water gushing out, we decide to go back to the airport premises, as we felt it was safer there," the fourth-year student of Computer Science adds.
His friend Pallav Gupta, 21, a Delhi resident, shares another harrowing tale of their ordeal. "Many taxi and auto drivers tried to take advantage of our situation.
They were asking Rs 35,000-Rs 40,000 for taking us to barely a few kms. Even for the nearest metro, they charged about couple of thousands (of rupees).
We did not have much money, the ATMs were out of cash, so we could not leave the airport," Gupta rues.