Chennai Floods: Lakes at dangerous levels, New areas flooding, Rescue stepped up


Chennai Floods Update: 

Chennai remains cut off from the rest of the state, with road, rail and air traffic crippled because of flooding in much of the city after record rain. Water level in the lakes around Chennai are rising to dangerous levels, forcing the government to release more water from these lakes. Although the rain has abated a bit in the last 36 hours, there is no respite yet as the water release is causing flooding in new areas, causing concern to residents who are already suffering from the deluge in the city. Rescue operations are being stepped up now with more support from the Center and States.

The latest:

– 3,500 people stranded at Chennai airport
– Chennai International Airport closed till 6 December
– Worst continuous rainstorms in 100 years
– 15 teams of National Disaster Response Force in Chennai
– More rain expected, next 48 hours crucial
– Adyar river in spate, 35,000 cusecs discharged
– TN Chief Secretary has told Centre that the state has “enough medicines, food, drinking water”

Key Highlights

  1. The Navy’s amphibious carrier, INS Airavat, has been moved to Chennai with medical equipment, medicines and doctors. The ship is also taking 20 divers and swimmers and 15 boats.
  2. There has been no rain since last night, but 35 lakes are reportedly flowing at dangerous levels, raising fears of more flooding.
  3. The water level has been rising steadily in parts of the city. Chennai received 49 cm of rain over the last 24 hours. Chembarambakkam, where the reservoir released about 25,000 cusecs of water into Adyar river, received 47 cm of rains. The met office has said the next 48 hours will be crucial and the rains will continue for a week.
  4. The Saidapet bridge over the Adyar river, which runs through the city, was closed to traffic as water spilled onto the road.
  5. The Chennai International airport will remain closed till December 6. The Rajali naval air station at Arakkonam, 70 km west of Chennai, will now function as a makeshift airport.
  6. The commissioner of Chennai corporation, Vikram Kapoor, said the main thoroughfares of the city has been cleared but the river is still at the danger level. The surplus water is coming into Chennai. “None of the drains can work with such heavy rain. If this kind of rain happens again we are in for a tough time,” he said.
  7. More than 2000 people have been rescued from the flood-hit city by the Army, Navy, Air Force and the National Disaster Response Force.

Water released from lakes floods new areas

Rain abated in Chennai on Thursday giving relief to people tormented by the heavy downpour in the last three days, but excessive discharge of water last night from Chembarambakkam lake on the outskirts has flooded new areas in the city and threatens to displace people from their homes.

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.

Though there has been no rain since Wednesday night, the fresh flooding of the streets in the heart of the city in areas like Kodambakkam and T Nagar and Ashok Nagar has been caused by the release of an estimated 30,000 cusecs (about 8,50,000 litres) of water from the Chembarambakkam lake, one of city’s sources of drinking water.

Flooding has started in Mylapore Radhakrishnan Salai, parts of Mount Road (Anna Salai), Teynampet, likely to start in Poes Gardens, and water levels are expected to rise steadily as more water is likely to be released from other reservoirs/lakes such as Porur lake.

The reservoir has been overflowing because of heavy inflow due to rain in the catchment area. People in the city are worried about the forecast of showers over the next three days.

Grim forecast

The state of Tamil Nadu, especially its capital Chennai, is on alert for further torrential downpour, following the prediction by the IMD that there will be rain for the next 72 hours in Chennai and its suburbs, with the next 48 hours being “very crucial.”

ANI is reporting that light showers have started in Koyambedu, Vadapalani, Ashok Nagar and Ekkaduthangal areas of Chennai.

Making a statement in the Lok Sabha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the present spell of rainfall has broken the record of past 100 years.

“The MeT department has predicted heavy rainfall for the next 2 to 3 days. About 40% of the mobile and telephone connections are not working due to floods,” Rajnath said.

“PM Modi will do an aerial survey today and appropriate steps will be taken after that,” Rajnath added.

The minister further told the Lok Sabha that out of NDRF’s 30 teams, two have been deployed in Pondicherry.

Rescue operations stepped up

Over 50,000 people have been rescued from flooded homes in various areas and lodged in relief centres opened by the Chennai Corporation.

The Air Force and Army are said to be rushing in with supplies for the people in distress. Arakkonam, Tirupati, Tambaram and Trichy airfields will be utilised for rescue and relief operations.

For the first time in over 40 years, the water has risen rapidly on the river breaching the road and the Maraimalai Adigal bridge in Saidapet cutting the arterial Anna Salai (Mount Road), rendering it out of bounds for motorists.

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.

Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Army, Navy and commandos of police and fire service personnel were deployed for rescue and relief works in the worst-affected areas of Kotturpuram, Jafferkhanpet and Nandanam on the banks of the Adyar river that has been in spate for the last two days.

Soldiers joined the rescue and relief work and more troops were on their way from Bengaluru to Chennai, the sprawling southern metropolis with over 4.6 million residents.

Transportation 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.

The Chennai international airport will remain shut till December 6, said Airports Authority of India on Wednesday after the runway was flooded.

The AAI decision follows a prediction by the IMD that there will be rain for the next 72 hours in Chennai and its suburbs, with the next 48 hours being “very crucial.”

AAI chairman R K Srivastava told reporters that nearly 1,500 passengers had been evacuated from the airport. A total of 3,500 people, including passengers and staffers, were stranded at the airport on Wednesday morning, he added. He said that 33-35 aircraft have been grounded and 119 flights cancelled since 8pm on Tuesday due to the calamity.

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.

“By 6 am today, the situation had deteriorated severely, leading to submerging of entire operational area in approximately seven feet of water. All incoming flights were diverted to alternate airfields, except one international flight which was cleared due medical priority,” said a statement by the government on Wednesday.

The weather department has forecast more rain in the next four days and said that the next 48 hours are critical. 50 trains have also been cancelled, with water flooding rail tracks.

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. For the first time ever in the 150-year history of the Hindu newspaper, it could not be published on 2nd. The Hindu will be published on Thursday, a newspaper employee said.

No electricity, phonelines, ATMS down, Fuel short supply

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.

Diesel and petrol are in short supply and there are long queues of motorists at the few number of petrol pumps that supply them.

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, “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.

Companies help Chennai flood victims

A number of companies, including start-ups, are doing their bit to help flood-hit Chennai residents by offering free calls, rides and food in addition to the extensive rescue and relief operation being run by the government.

Telecom majors like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Communications are offering free talktime and mobile data in the city.

Airtel announced that prepaid customers will get talktime worth up to Rs 30 with an automatic approval from the company, as well as free credit of 10 minutes on Airtel-to-Airtel calling. Prepaid customers will also get 50 MB of mobile data free with a validity of two days

chennai floods - airtel

Vodafone is offering 100 MB of mobile data free and has given its postpaid clients more time to make payments with uninterrupted services.

Reliance is giving away 10 minutes of free talktime to any network across India as well as 50 MB of free mobile data for prepaid customers. It is also allowing free charge of Rs 10.

Union telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said state-run BSNL will not charge its customers anything for a week. If monthly bills are not paid, there won’t be any disconnection of services until further orders.

Small businesses too are doing their bit towards  the relief efforts for those affected by the flooding.

chennai floods - food

Food delivery app Zomato, announced a matching meal contribution scheme for flood relief, where for every meal purchased the company will buy the same quantity of food for the flood victims.

Popular taxi service OlaCabs began sending out OlaBoats last week in different directions when the city received heavy rainfall. Apart from rescuing people, the company was also seen distributing food and water to trapped residents free of charge. Ola is working closely with the fire department to help people who are stranded.

Hotel aggregators Oyo Rooms and Stayzilla are giving special discounts / listing shelters for those displaced by rains to stay

With inputs from PTI and IANS

Credits: HindustanTimes, NDTV

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