Chennai struggles to keep head above water


After suffering 1,218 mm of precipitation in November, three times more than normal, on Tuesday the fourth largest metropolis in India received 374 mm of rainfall in a span of 24 hours, according to Skymet, an online weather portal. At least twice as much rain fell on Tuesday as the average for the whole month of December.

Chennai rains live updates – On Wednesday morning, the rain stopped for a short while but the rescue operations faced a setback when weatherman warned that torrential rains could continue for the next 48 hours. While attributing the heavy rains to a “trough of low” over Southwest Bay of Bengal off Tamil Nadu, IMD Director General Laxman Singh Rathore said it will continue to bring rains over the next two days.

Responding to the crisis, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the situation in Chennai was “unheard of and unprecedented”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has blamed climate change for the rain, injecting urgency into the debate at global climate talks in Paris and highlighting the vulnerability of tropical nations like India to extreme weather.

Most mobile networks were down in the city and food supplies were running low. While people complained of shoddy response from local agencies, Army, Navy, Air Force and National Disaster Response Force joined the rescue operations on Wednesday afternoon. The much-hyped Ola and NTL boat services also failed to meet the demand.

Social media networks carried many appeals for help, while others offered assistance. Siddarth, a popular Tamil film actor who goes by one name, was coordinating a relief effort on Twitter. “The police want to help but there are no boats. We are trying not to panic,” said Ramana Goda, who took refuge at a police station after fleeing his home with his family overnight.

Due to massive flooding, the international airport was shut causing wide disruption to air travel and hampering rescue operations. Passengers stranded at the airport said they did not know when they would be able to fly, or where to stay if they could not. Those who were lucky to have checked in hotels on Tuesday extended their stay.

As many as 3,500 people, including 1,500 passengers, were stranded at the Chennai international airport, which has been closed for operations till Sunday morning. When asked, a senior airport official said, “I don’t think any flight is possible for at least a week.”

Airports Authority of India said all the stranded passengers are being moved out of the airport, but did not reveal the exact number of those evacuated so far. Initially, there was a plan to transport the stranded passengers in helicopters but that seemed unviable considering number of passengers.

With the commercial airport shut for operations, the Rajali Naval air station near Arakonam, about 70 km from the Tamil Nadu capital, will be converted into a make-shift airport for commercial flights. National carrier Air India test-landed an Airbus 320 that flew in from Hyderabad at the Navy base a little before 9 pm on Wednesday. “We are hopeful of passenger flights landing there from tomorrow,” PTI quoted Defence Ministry sources as saying.

Chennai floods live updates – As many as 50 trains were cancelled, with water flooding rail tracks. However, some of the suburban trains were restored around 3 pm on Wednesday. Train services from Chengalpet and Thirumalpur to Chennai Beach were running slowly, according to railway sources. Chennai Central-Tiruvallur line was disrupted too.

Chennai is a major auto manufacturing and IT outsourcing hub. Ford Motor, Daimler, Hyundai and Nissan told workers to stay at home, while U.S. listed outsourcing firm Cognizant shut its 11 local offices.


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