A large group of Indian students, many of them graduate students at the University of Houston, was stranded by flooding Sunday night. As waters receded Monday, help arrived.
“Some of them were very frightened,” said Ravi Shankar, a 28-year-old MBA student from Bangalore who is president of the Graduate Indian Student Organization at the University of Houston. In some cases, they had just arrived to begin studying for master’s degrees, he said. “It’s not even 20 days they have been in the United States.”
In the opening days of the school year, some colleges in the hurricane’s path canceled classes and shut down as rain continued to fall and waters rose.
At the University of Houston, classes began last Monday, and the school closed at 1 p.m. Friday.
Some of the students from India crowded into rooms on the higher floors of the three-story apartment building close to a bayou, Shankar said, because water was rising on the first floor, the power was out and they were trapped inside.
Students reached out to the university’s president and to Anupam Ray, the consul general of India in Houston, as “they were marooned and would be running out of food,” he said.
“The Indian community rallied to help the University of Houston,” Ray said, by organizing food deliveries and evacuation. He said he met with the 200 or so students Monday morning. Renu Khator, the chancellor of the UH system and president of the university, visited them later that day, and made sure they had food and water.
“The university is helping them to move to better locations” as the rain continues, Ray said.
Sushma Swaraj, the minister of external affairs for India, has been following the situation personally, Ray said, and posting about it on social media to her 9 million Twitter followers.
“The situation is pretty good now,” Shankar said.
University of Houston officials announced Monday afternoon that the school will remain closed through Labor Day.
Rice University, where roads have flooded periodically and some trees have fallen, will remain closed through Labor Day. Some parts of campus collected water, and crews have been working to repair leaks in buildings. “We’ve issued weather alerts to advise students to remain indoors during the heavy rains, especially when there are tornado warnings, lightning strikes and flooding,” spokesman B.J. Almond said.
“While we’re OK at Rice — we’ve had pretty minor to no damage to campus – we’re really concerned and thinking forward about how we can support the entire Houston community,” said Justin Onwenu, the president of the Rice University Student Association. He said many students had already asked him how they could help, and student government would meet later this week to get relief efforts up and running. “Our students know we are privileged to be in the situation we’re in now, and have a civic duty to help the city.”
Texas Southern University will remain closed through Labor Day, as well.
The University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center would remained closed for outpatient services, appointments and surgeries throughout the Houston area through Tuesday, according to a statement by Karen Lu, the senior vice president and chief medical officer: “High water conditions persist in the Texas Medical Center, and travel should not be attempted. All leaks reported yesterday are under control, and patient care has not been impacted.”
Many students were unable to take standardized tests for college admissions as they had planned; 138 test centers in Texas were closed over the weekend because of the hurricane. “The safety of everyone in Texas was the primary concern,” said Jaslee Carayol, a spokeswoman for the College Board, who said it was working to schedule makeup tests on Sept. 16.
At the University of Houston, they are used to flooding, spokesman Mike Rosen said Tuesday, but the amount and duration of this rainfall, as well as the impact on the broader community, has been a challenge.
Of the 8,000 students normally on campus, 2,000 remain, he said, including 75 who were evacuated from the University of Houston in Victoria, which is close to the spot where the hurricane first struck land.
University officials on Sunday moved 140 students from off-campus housing that backs up to a bayou; water was creeping into the first floor.
It’s an evolving situation, Rosen said Tuesday. “The campus floods and recedes, floods and recedes,“ he said. “… If we get a band that comes through, many of our roads will be impassable. Then it clears and repeats.”
With 45,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff members, the impact of the storm on the greater Houston community is deeply felt. Some faculty and staff members had to be evacuated from their homes and public schools remain closed, so even if the campus were physically safe, reopening would not be simple.
“To this point, considering the magnitude of this storm, we have been lucky,” Rosen said. “Extraordinarily lucky.
“When you sit here, where we are, at the center of this metro area of 6 million people, and look in any direction and see the impact this is having on people, on their families — it’s devastating,” he said. “… We’re praying for our community.”