Last week, heavy downpours in Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, Kanyakumari, and Thoothukudi districts led to extensive flooding, road washouts, and damage to rail tracks. The Chennai-bound Chendhur Express train from Tiruchendhur found itself halted at Srivaikundam Railway station, trapped between damaged tracks following the incessant rains.
Approximately 800 passengers were stranded at the Srivaikundam Railway station since the night of December 17, with 300 of them temporarily relocated to a nearby school the following day. The remaining 500 passengers faced the harsh reality of their situation until Tuesday morning, enduring sleepless nights at the railway station and on the train.
The stranded passengers, surrounded by six feet of water at the railway station, took the initiative to venture out along the rail tracks. Their journey led them to Pudkudi village near Melur, which was also marooned due to the flooding. In a resourceful move, they purchased essential supplies, including biscuits and bread, from a kiosk in the village.
Upon learning about the passengers’ plight, the compassionate villagers of Pudkudi invited them to their village and opened the premises of the Bhadrakaali Amman temple for their stay. The villagers provided the stranded passengers with food and drinking water, offering a respite from the challenging circumstances.
While the initial assistance from authorities, in the form of biscuits and food packets, reached the passengers after about 36 hours, the villagers of Pudkudi continued their support on Tuesday by preparing cooked meals for the stranded individuals.
Former Srivaikundam Panchayat Union ward member R S Muthukrishnan detailed the village’s efforts, stating, “While the village was submerged in 4 feet of water, there was no water in the temple premises. We swung into action to prepare food for the hungry passengers.” Despite facing power outages, the villagers utilized available resources to cook meals, demonstrating remarkable community spirit.
Former Srivaikundam Panchayat Union ward member R S Muthukrishnan shared the village’s remarkable efforts to assist those in need.
Swift Response Amidst Adversity
As the village found itself marooned with four feet of water, the community acted swiftly to prepare food for the hungry passengers stranded at the Srivaikundam Railway station. Within an hour, villagers mobilised resources, including LPG cylinders, stoves, provisions, and vegetables. Four passengers, skilled in mass cooking, joined in to assist.
With power snapped to avoid casualties, the villagers demonstrated resourcefulness, using mixers and grinders to pound spices into paste. Lemon rice, tomato rice, and sambar rice were prepared using available materials. Despite lacking infrastructure for large-scale food preparation, the villagers managed to feed nearly 700 stranded passengers.
Prioritising the Vulnerable
Aiming to alleviate the plight of the stranded, the villagers prioritised the distribution of food, giving preference to children, the elderly, and patients. Food was also taken to elderly individuals waiting at the railway station. Additionally, the villagers sourced milk from their cows, ensuring that children and the elderly had access to this essential resource.
Devaki Ammal, deeply involved in the food preparation efforts, highlighted that the village comprises plantain farmers. Their commitment to helping those stranded due to the train stoppage amidst floods reflects a selfless spirit. The villagers engaged in this humanitarian effort without expecting anything in return, finding fulfillment in their service.
Passengers, upon being rescued, expressed heartfelt gratitude to the villagers, recognising their service as an enduring memory. The passengers conveyed that the villagers’ efforts would be remembered throughout their lives. In addition to providing food, the villagers supplied medicine for fever, BP, diabetes, and other ailments from their own houses.
Acknowledging the Trail Loco Pilot and Railway Authorities: The stranded passengers extended their thanks to the trail loco pilot for making a timely decision to stop the train, foreseeing the dangers ahead. The railway authorities also received acknowledgment for their role in managing the challenging situation.
Commendable Service Amidst Humble Conditions
The humane faces of the villagers in times of emergency are now visible, earning them praise and appreciation for their selfless service to fellow humans despite their modest circumstances. Local BJP and Seva Bharathi actively participated in preparing and serving food at the station, contributing to the collective effort to alleviate the difficulties faced by the stranded passengers.
This act of compassion and selflessness by the residents of Pudkudi serves as a shining example of humanity prevailing in times of adversity. As the stranded passengers continue to face challenges, the villagers’ efforts to provide not only shelter but also sustenance underscore the resilience of communities coming together in the face of a crisis.