Malaysian students recount harrowing escape from Chennai floods

The quartet of dentistry students arriving safely at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The quartet of dentistry students arriving safely at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Hungry, tired and running out of money, four Malaysian dentistry students in Chennai braved water logged roads and a 400-km bus ride to another Indian city to escape the flood waters that had trapped them in their hostel.

Ms Preeya Darshinie, 20, and her twin sister Priithaa, Ms Christine Ting, 21, and Ms Yuhasri Ulaganathan, 19, finally landed safely at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) from Bangalore in Karnataka state on Thursday (Dec 3).

There are still about 30 more Malaysian students who are stuck in their hostel.

"They were scared to leave," said Ms Darshinie. "The Malaysian Consul office said we could take shelter there but it was near the Chennai airport which was flooded, so we thought it would be flooded as well. It wasn't safe."

Recounting their harrowing experience, she said the students "suffered" after they found themselves stranded in their hostel for about a day with no food, water, electricity and no means to call for help.

She said the students had not attended classes at the Meenakshi Ammal Dental College in Maduravoyal, Chennai, for nearly four weeks due to "flood holidays".

She said flood waters began to rise on Tuesday afternoon and had trapped the students in the hostel by nightfall.

Ms Ting said electricity and water supply were cut and the students only had whatever was left in their powerbanks to charge their phones to call for help.

The hostel warden carried food through knee-deep flood waters from the college canteen to the hostel for dinner and breakfast, but Ms Ting said it was barely enough to feed them all.

"We just had parotta (roti canai), curry and some rice for dinner. Then the next day we had uppuma (a flour-based dish). It was little because they did not estimate there were that many students in the hostel.

"We tried calling the Malaysian embassy but it was difficult as our phones were either out of credit or battery. And the line was really bad too," she said.

It was a tense 24-hour wait for the students, who spent most of their time pacing up and down the water-logged first floor of the hostel trying to get a signal to call for help.

Ms Ulaganathan managed to contact her family who booked tickets for the group to fly home through the Bangalore airport.

 
 

The four students packed their clothes and travel documents and waded through the flooded roads while using a mop stick to jab at the ground to be on the lookout for potholes.

They pushed through a crowd of hundreds and managed to get on a bus to Vellore, which was a four-hour ride away.

They had to sit along the bus aisle during the 215-km bus journey to Bangalore as all the seats had been taken up.

"We were packed like sardines but managed to make it for the 1 am flight to KLIA.

"We were just relieved to get out. We just wanted to go home. We've never seen any flood like this before, it wasn't like this last year," Ms Darshinie said.

She believes they are the first Malaysian students to make it home.

She hopes the other Malaysian students will get help quickly because the situation is getting worse.