No electricity, no food, no transportation, no drinking water and a drowning city, this is what residents of Chennai woke up to on Wednesday as life in the Tamil Nadu capital was crippled as fresh downpour worsened an already disastrous flood situation, posing danger to thousands of people in low-lying areas.
The financial loss may exceed Rs 15,000 crore, an industry lobby body said, as weather forecasting agencies predicted heavy rain to continue for at least the next two days.
The city received 49 cm of rain and Chembarambakkam, where the reservoir surplussed about 25,000 cusecs of water into Adyar river, received 47 cm of rains in the last 24 hours that flooded the city and the suburbs, uprooting people from their homes.
Flood waters reached upto even the second floor of the Housing Board colonies on the banks of Adyar river as people reached roof tops looking for rescue and relief in several parts of the city and suburbs.
The death toll in the rains that have lashed the city and other parts of state has gone up to 197, officials said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa is going to go on an aerial survey of flood-hit Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur districts. According to CNN-IBN reports Chennai has been declared a disaster zone.
City marooned, comes to standstill
All modes of transport — air, road and rail services — remained suspended due to the unprecedented deluge, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at the airport and various rail terminals. Suburban rail services also remained suspended.
PTI reported that the Chennai airport will be shut till Sunday, 6 December because of the floods.
The Southern Railway cancelled 13 trains out of Egmore station and four trains from Chennai Central. Ten trains from other stations too were axed, reported IANS.
With schools and colleges shut, and vast areas under water, most buses went off the roads and suburban train services were suspended. Auto-rickshaws and taxis plied in some parts of Chennai but the operators fleeced commuters. A taxi driver reportedly charged Rs 4,500 to ferry three people from the airport to a hotel. Left with no option to proceed to their destinations, many people were seen walking on the railway track even as water was rushing below with brute force.
Public holiday declared
Several private establishments declared a holiday. The government on Wednesday issued an advisory to private sector undertakings to allow their employees to take leave or permit them to work from home on Thursday and Friday.
The Hindu and Business Standard newspapers did not come out on Wednesday due to heavy rains. The Hindu will be published on Thursday, a newspaper employee said.
No electricity, phonelines, ATMS down
Phone network—both mobile and fixed lines–were out of service even as ATMs did not function. Even in the few ATMs that were open, serpentine queues were witnessed and people stocked up on supplies in the wake of more rains being forecast for the coming days.
Telecom service providers and mobile payment solutions providers have come up with free mobile recharges to help residents stay connected.
Rescue operations by Army, Navy and Centre
While the Army and Air Force were involved in rescue work and distribution of food packets at suburban Tambaram and Oorapakkam, ships of the Navy and Coast Guard were on standby, officials said. Expert Naval divers and inflatable boats were deployed at Adyar and Kotturpuram areas to help marooned citizens.
Alok Bhatnagar, Naval officer in charge, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, said ships — INS Airawat and other amphibian vessels would arrive here tonight. The Navy was also ready with medical supplies, he said. Seven boats had already been deployed for rescue work, while shelters were ready to accommodate 200 people.
The Indian Coast Guard has shifted over 150 marooned people in Chennai, and over 1,000 people stranded at different locations were provided with food cooked on board Coast Guard ships.
The government said 72,119 people were housed in 432 relief camps, but thousands of passengers were still stranded at the Chennai airport and railway stations.
Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said in New Delhi that the situation was “unheard of and unprecedented”, and promised all help to the beleaguered city and other areas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who spoke to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa last night and promised all assistance, held discussions with his cabinet colleagues Rajnath Singh (Home), Arun Jaitley (Finance) and M Venkaiah Naidu (Parliamentary Affairs) in the morning to take stock of the situation.
The National Crisis Management Committee headed by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha reviewed the situation and assured the state of all support from the centre.
Weather experts forecast more rains
Adding to the worry of the citizens and administration, the weatherman has forecast rainfall over the next three days with the next 48 being very critical under the influence of a trough of low pressure and upper air circulation over the southwest Bay of Bengal and Sri Lankan coast.
Thereafter, the state will see an anti-cyclone activity which will be associated with “heavy rains” at some places. “The phenomenon will continue for the next seven days, but the next 48 hours are very crucial. Neighbouring states will also see rainfall activity,” LS Rathore, Director General of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) told reporters in Delhi.
A joint statement by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency said: “Tamil Nadu’s weather is under observation for the next 72 hours as the rain in the next 48 hours is going to be comparatively heavy.”
As widely reported, this is the worst Chennai has seen in a hundred years.
Risk of disease outbreak
While people are hoping for the water to recede and the rains to stop, the worse will come after that. What usually follows floods are waterborne diseases. And the experts had already warned of that when Chennai was flooded during mid-November. But the situation was not even half as bad as it is now.
Director of public health Dr S Elango had told The Times of India, “Stagnant water is much more dangerous than flowing water. If immediate steps are not taken, there may be a spread of waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and malaria.”
Given the situation at the moment, removing stagnant water from low lying areas in the city pose as a herculean task for the Jayalalithaa government.
With inputs from PTI and IANS
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Marooned and sinking: Chennai declared disaster zone, Met warns of more rains
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