Chennai limps back to normal after record rain

Wednesday 09th December 2015 05:34 EST

Piles of garbage strewn around, floating carcasses and rodents, unbearable stench and reptiles slithering loose, are just few of the many problems faced by Chennai as it limps its way back to normal amidst epidemic scares.

Tamil Nadu was recently pounded by the heaviest rainfall in over a century where capital city Chennai received more than 300 mm in 24 hours. A depression in the Bay of Bengal triggered rains in coastal areas and India's fourth largest city was stalled as people died and thousands were stranded. The flooding forced more than 200,000 people to abandon their homes. The last known figures reveal 450 people killed by the overflowing, but it is likely to rise as the water now slowly recedes leaving it to the state government and its people to put their lives back together. Some 400 passengers were stranded at the airport as all flights were cancelled. Patients were evacuated from hospitals as flood waters entered buildings. At least 14 patients on life support system at a private hospital died as the power supply to the hospital was snapped as flood water entered its premises. The army and the National Disaster Response Force was deployed in the city's worst-affected suburbs to rescue people. At least 10,000 policemen and swimmers were employed to help in the rescue efforts. The government had suspended power supply in early 60 per cent of the city's neighbourhoods.

Not only did the floods cripple daily lives, it also affected Chennai's industrial and business hubs, resulting in losses that have run into billions of rupees. The rain hampered production process and also triggered a shortage of essential supplies for production to resume. Over 165 BSE-listed companies worth over £28.50 billion that run operations in Chennai have been hit. An Assocham study on the floods made a rough estimate of £1.5 billion loss for the industries.

Military personnel unswervingly continued using helicopters and boats to take people trapped in flooded pockets, to safer areas. Hundreds of police and fire department rescuers waded through flooded streets carrying people to safety. Low-lying areas were submerged and the Adyar river flowed well above the danger mark. Rescue and relief operations continued in full swing with over a hundred people taken to safety by teams of Army, IAF and NDRF, including a seven-month pregnant woman who was airlifted from one of the worst-affected areas in the flooded city.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took an aerial survey of the disaster and later met with Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, offering Rs 10,000 million for flood relief operations from the National Disaster Response Fund. Several Kollywood and Bollywood celebrities threw in their lot as the rich donated food and money. The south film industry sprung into action, providing aid in whichever means possible. Celebrities like Rajinikanth and Shah Rukh Khan donated generously to the cause.

Help came in from all sides, conventional and unconventional. Sex workers from Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district dipped into their savings and survived on just one meal a day to collect Rs 100,000, that was donated towards relief work. People made the utmost use of the internet, with actions as small as posting a single status update on Facebook proved more than useful help for the stricken. Social media became an effective media to arrange relief commodities. A Bengaluru resident, named Ram Kashyap, shuttled between Bengaluru and Chennai with food supplies and other essentials items. He accepted donations for food supplies, containers, paper cups, plates, rain coats, umbrellas and money for fuel. #ChennaiRainsHelp trended on Twitter with tweets like “If you are running out of balance, Tweet your numbers. Shall do recharges for 10 X 50 #chennairains” providing relief to families stranded away from each other. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted, “If your passport is lost or damaged in floods, pl go to any of three PSKs in Chennai. They will issue u fresh passport free of charge. Pl RT” Hashtags were used by volunteers to marshal rescue efforts and trace missing people.

Aid also poured in from abroad as the World Tamil Organisation (UK) London, gathered donation to support the rescue and relief work to help boost more food, shelter and medicine to distribute at the relief centres.

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