Rains in Chennai again, 325 dead as waters recede

Heavy rains battered Chennai again on Friday evening just as life began to limp to normalcy amid persisting power cuts and food shortages here and three other Tamil Nadu districts where floods and downpour have claimed 325 lives.

Thousands of military personnel and social activists were engaged in a major operation of supplying food, water and blankets to thousands trapped in water-logged neighbourhoods — and rescuing the still marooned.

There was relief as water levels in the main reservoirs and rivers began to fall. But numerous areas were still under water, residents across the city told IANS.

The rains have caused widespread destruction in the districts of Chennai, Cuddalore, Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu. By all accounts, the state capital bore the brunt.

Officials said they expected the death toll to rise once the water levels go down, revealing drowned bodies.

Fourteen patients admitted at an intensive care unit of MIOT Hospital near here died due to power failure following floods, an official said.

Prithivi Mohandas, the hospital’s managing director, told the media that lights and other equipment ceased to work due to power failure. The hospital’s back-up power system also failed.

Power supply has been cut off in flood affected areas in Chennai and the neighbourhood.

As rains halted on Thursday and early Friday, some shops opened in parts of flooded Chennai including Mylapore and Teynampet. Electricity supply was restored in some areas.

Most areas were, however, without power. Drinking water was in short supply and so were basic essentials including milk and vegetables.

Officials at the power utility told IANS that electricity supply would be restored as the waters — which have turned virtually the whole of Chennai into a lake — recede.

Skeletal public transport was operational from Friday morning in some areas. Auto-rickshaws plied but commuters complained that they were being fleeced by drivers.

Residents said supplies of essential commodities were difficult to come by.

"Water-logging continues. The only mercy is that there are no fresh rains," said Vishwanath, a south Chennai resident.

He spoke too soon. By evening, the rains began to lash again, worrying both residents and the authorities.

The water flow in the Adyar river has come down as the quantum of surplus water released into the river from Chembarambakkam lake fell.

Several voluntary organisations and NGOs supplied food, water bottles and blankets in flood-hit areas.

The army, navy and air force continued rescue and relief work in the more heavily flooded Kanchipuram district.

Army chief General Dalbir Singh visited Chennai on Friday to review the rescue and relief operations.

The Southern Railway has announced special trains to Tirunelveli, Rameswaram and Howrah from Chennai Beach station in a bid to clear the large number of train travellers who have got stranded in the city.

Communication lines — landlines and mobile connections — are still disrupted. The official web site of the Tamil Nadu government crashed on Friday.

In heavily flooded areas like Tambaram, people were crowding rooftops and waved frantically to get relief materials dropped from helicopters.

Chennai – where schools and colleges have been shut – has seen extensive water logging, with water gushing into homes, causing misery and acute problems to residents.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday undertook an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas and announced Rs.1,000 crore as immediate relief.

Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, however, demanded Rs.5,000 crore.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has described the situation in Tamil Nadu as "alarming" and promised all help to the state government.