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September 15th, 2017:

Hunker Games

As a newspaper dedicated to hyper-local news in Chennai, this week we, with typical thoughtfulness, focus on Hurricane Irma that hit the American coast.

Watching news of Hurricane Irma, with it about to flatten Florida, was mostly great fun. Now, don’t get us wrong. The hurricane effects were, of course, sad and scary, but just that the way the American news networks covered the whole thing you would have thought America was about to be removed from the map itself and all mankind in and around 3000 sq kms of the area was going to perish.

But to be fair, their reporters didn’t mind putting their personal lives at risk to basically convey the idea that their personal lives were at risk with every one, including the studio anchor, reporting from under pouring rain and crazy winds,  a bit like reporting with Arnab Goswami, but decidedly less tempestuous.

Not to cheapen or belittle anything or anybody’s loss, but the total number of casualties in the hurricane havoc was, if it were India, would hardly make it to the front pages of most newspapers.

Okay, this is what we got to watch last Sunday. More or less:

Anchor person (wearing a heavy raincoat and standing amidst heavy rain): We continue our focus on Irma, which is currently a Category 3 hurricane, the kind of hurricane that America has not witnessed in many, many days since the previous week’s Hurricane Harvey. To give you the latest perspective on Irma, we will go right away to our correspondent Bill Weir, who too for the sake of effect is reporting from under torrential downpour in Florida Keys. Bill, what is the latest?

Bill Weir (staggering amidst heavy gust of wind and rain): Tim, what we are seeing is just the beginning of the worst. Hurricane Irma is right now Category 3, and meteorologists tracking it concur that the next Category is 4, which in scientific terms means, is a bigger hurricane number than Category 3, one capable of unleashing enormous damage on high-rise buildings. In such a scenario, we cannot but rue the fact that Trump Towers isn’t anywhere near Florida.

Anchor: Bill, just continue to be buffeted under the rain for no particular reason, while we speak to our chief meteorologist David Smith on where Irma is exactly headed. David, what do yo have?

David: Nothing cheering, I am afraid, Jim. Right now Irma, as you can see in our computer image, which we have projected as a dangerous red blob just to heighten the tension, is located at the edge of Florida peninsula. It can go either west or east. Or even north or south. Or in all directions. Only teenagers are more unpredictable than hurricanes. If you are living in Florida, our advice would be to evacuate immediately. This is an advice we would give even when there is no hurricane.

Anchor: That sounds dire, David. We will now go to Kyung Lah, our correspondent at one of the harbours, so that we can show boats and steamers bobbing up and down in the sea. Kyung, I can already see the water steadily rising behind you. What is the situation there?

Kyung: That is a pretty interesting observation, Jim. Because all day we have been here, but we can’t sense any difference. Whereas you watching this from elsewhere, can notice the water rising. Anyway the situation is pretty alarming and you can see the beach totally deserted. Of course, why would any one, other than reporters on stupid reporting duties, turn up here on a day like this? It is time to hunker down and see this through, it is the message that should go out to the public. That’s why you will have us repeat this line in all bulletins all day. Of course, with bulletins every hour, we can’t help repeat ourselves.

Anchor person: Kyun, you hunker down while we go back to Bill Weir who we hope has not been washed away in the waters. Bill, are you there?

Bill: Barely, Jim. Last time around, we said it is the beginning of the worst. Tell you what, an hour later we are still in the beginning. We have had unprecedented 100 inches of rainfall, and I suspect 95 inches of them have fallen right on our reporters.

Anchor: Just a second, Bill. We have some developments from meteorologist David.

David: Irma has weakened from Category 3 to Category 2. This also means the hurricane can go anywhere. So we ask every one, including those in Canada, to be on total alert. The thing is we cannot let our guard down. As far us personally, we will continue to stand in he water till summer arrives. We also have predictions that Hurricane Jose is on the tail Hurricane Irma.

Anchor: What does it entail, David?

David: Without causing undue alarm, we see little hope for mankind, Jim.