A short time after the landfall of the very severe cyclonic storm Hudhud around Visakhapatnam the first e-mails about its damages arrived via a Spanish friend. Visakhapatnam (or Vizag, as it is popularly called – though I prefer the long version) is the centre of the WTT movement and I have posted quite a lot about my journeys – I went there every year since 2000 for the annual seminars of Dr Kumar each January. So of course I was interested in the news.
But the first thought was, don’t overreact: I was reminded of the Tsunami 10 years ago – when the media reported the whole coast of India from the South up to Kolkata was destroyed but when 10 days later I arrived in Visakhapatnam I could hardly see any damage along the coast.
However, soon images arrived, and I saw some videos on Facebook showing the trace of destruction of the cyclone. The power of the images changed my impression. I forwarded the mails to the WTT mailing list, and the next day members sent mails expressing their sympathies with the victims and their prayers.
Further mails arrived via my Spanish friend, which I forwarded again: “In Visakhapatnam, they have no electricity nor water. ATM’s don’t work so they’re not able to retrieve money; convenience stores are closed anyway so they cannot buy food. Public and private transportation is very perturbed because of streets’ damage and fallen trees… There is some sacking. People are considering to leave the city and go to their home towns in order to be able to get water supplies and food…” I thought, oh, how severe is the situation?
Some friends called for action, how they can help with money, if we would do a collection. I was reminded of my time at the Swiss Red Cross where over years I published the disaster news and collection calls. I knew very well that for the emergency assistance there needs to be an evaluation and an infrastructure, besides partners. So I sent an e-mail to Dr. Kumar, and he answered: “As such, we better wait and watch brother!” I thought, yes, that’s what I had expected. Later I got an update from him via a friend: “All are fine. But the city is destroyed substantially. Almost all trees are fallen. Except SMS no communications are possible. No electricity.”
More details about devastations at the different locations of the WTT arrived: Retreat Center: few glass window doors broke, prayer hall filled with water. School run in Ramadri premises needs some repair… What it meant I better understood when I saw some of the images Jayadev, a member had taken at this very beautiful temple site with a free school for the poor:
The school buildings at the temple site in Ramadri
School buildings and part of the temple compound
A little destroyed shrine with a statue of the divine Mother (Photos: Jayadev Pappu)
After the pictures I yesterday received an update from Jayadev writing: “I did visit the healing centre but I could not go inside because the path was completely blocked by trees. From what I could from a distance, the building is fine, some glasses might have broken, but almost all the trees around are down. That is the sad part.
The electricity in Vizag city has been restored in certain areas and in a week’s time almost the whole city will have electricity. All other basic amenities like water, fuel, milk, food, etc. are now available without much difficulty.”
It is quite different whether you hear about far away severe weathers in the news or when friends tell you from their first-hand experience. I know and love these places like the Healing Centre or Ramadri – sites with a sublime and serene spiritual ambiance. I will go there again in January, and I wonder how much of these devastations will still be visible – and how much restoration work will have been done – there is so much loving volunteer work behind these and other spiritual centres, silently carried out over the years.
Update: I just saw on Facebook a series of photos of Vamsi Chintalapati (“our school”) about the devastations the cyclone has done to the Bala Bhanu School – a beautiful school of the WTT at the outskirts of Visakhapatnam. May the sanctity of the place be soon restored!
A little shrine of Master CVV inside the schoolyard with the uprooted Ficus Religiosa tree
The broken table with the picture of Master EK at the entrance of the school. Photos by Vamsi Chintalapati