Fifty-eight-year-old Noor Begam, a mother of three, rests herself on a jute mat at the century-old Khaire Jaree Aided Middle School in Melvisharam near Arcot in Ranipet district. She is staying with her neighbours in the school since Friday since water entered their houses on the rear end of the school after a breach in a nearby lake. They never felt they were far away from their homes. Not because of the short distance between the school and their Mangalore tiled houses but their bonding with the school as they did their schooling there years ago.
Tucked between the common market and the Bengaluru Highway (NH 48), the school now houses more than 300 persons, including around 80 children from Melvisharam, a predominately Muslim neighbourhood, since Friday due to the rise of water level in the Palar.
The single-storey school has a big classroom and five small classrooms on its ground floor. Each room is occupied by at least 8-10 families. They were provided with food and tea, thrice a day. On an average, 50 bubble-top water cans were used at the school-turned relief camp every day for the affected persons. Interestingly, the school also functions as a COVID-19 vaccination centre for months taking advantage of online classes. “We will return to our homes even if it is a tile-roof house once water gets drained in the next few days. However, the school (relief camp) helps us to bond with each other as we share everything in common,” said young Mohammed Aslam.
Many relief camps in Ranipet, Vellore and Tirupatur are set up in government schools, community centres and marriage halls. Basic facilities including blankets, clothes and stainless steel utensils were given to the affected families. Uninterrupted milk is provided at these camps for children and babies. Vellore has the highest number of 3,809 persons in its 39 relief camps.
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