Rescue, relief in full swing as Chennai battles floods

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Chennai, Dec 3: Rescue and relief operations were in full swing today in the worst flood-affected areas of Chennai and suburbs and neighbouring districts which enjoyed a welcome respite from torrential rains as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a Rs 1,000 crore more aid to Tamil Nadu.

Heavy rains continued to lash coastal Cuddalore district, one of the worst affected areas ever since North-East monsoon fury started early last month, and Villupuram and Kanyakumari districts and Puducherry as the death toll in the state mounted to 269.

RAINS

The city remained virtually cut off from the rest of the country with air, rail and road transport services continued to be suspended while public transport was crippled because of flooding of arterial main roads, including the Mount Road over the Marmalong bridge.

While intermittent rains have been forecast for Chennai, coastal and interior Tamil Nadu will receive more rains in the next 24 hours.

The Grand Southern Trunk Road that links Chennai with Madurai and beyond was cut off after breaches in several places in Kanchipuram district.

The Southern Railway announced cancellation of all inter and intra-state train services till Saturday while the airport operations will remain suspended till Sunday.

Prices of milk, vegetables and food items sky rocketed because of short supply and people were forced to fork out huge amount of money for buying essentials.

With the flood wreaking havoc, Modi undertook an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas of Chennai and its suburbs and neighbouring districts of Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur. Later he held consultations with Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at the naval base "INS Adyar" and announced Rs 1,000 crore aid for relief works over and above Rs 940 crore given by the Centre to Tamil Nadu during the earlier spell of rains in November.

Jayalalithaa also made a separate aerial survey of the affected areas. In a brief statement that began in Tamil, Modi said he has seen the extent of damage suffered by the state and shared the misery of people of Tamil Nadu.

"I will stand in support of you," he said in his remarks after the review meeting with the Chief Minister. Teams of NDRF and army personnel and police and fire service men swung into action to rescue people from their flood homes in Kotturpuram, Nandanam, Jafferkhanpet, Saidapet and the suburbans areas of Velacheri, Madipakkam, Tambaram and Mudichur localities where waters had reached upto first floor.

A total of 28 NDRF teams with over 1,200 personnel were deployed in Chennai where they rescued around 5,000 marooned people by deploying over 110 boats.

Two NDRF teams were deployed in Puducherry Air Force personnel dropped food packets providing succour to the distressed people living on roof tops after floods displaced them from their homes.

A total of 14 lakh food packets were distributed, Tamil Nadu government said. As many as 255 Navy personnel were pressed into service with 12 boats and 15 helicopters for reaching relief.

Though the torrential rains took a break and sun came out in brief spells, new areas of the city like Kodambakkam, Ashok Nagar and T.

Nagar were flooded today after overnight discharge of 30,000 cusecs of water from Chembarambakkam, one of the key sources of drinking water for the city.

Adyar river that flows into the sea after traversing through several areas of the city has been in spate after surplussing of water from Chembarambakkam and other lakes on the outskirts. 

A group of students of SRM University, which has declared a one-month holiday after the campus was flooded, were also rescued.

"We are over 50 students from SRM University. We were stuck in the city until we were rescued at about 10 pm yesterday. And, we were then brought to the air base here, where they took care of us, and today we are flying out," 18-year-old George K George, a Kerala native, said.

"We are flying them in different batches to Arakkonam Air Base, which has a bigger runway, and one of our main hubs for rescue operations. After reaching there, they will be flown to Bangalore or Delhi as needed," the senior IAF official said.

Air Commodore Gupta said that "22 sorties were conducted yesterday and nearly 22 people were rescued. As long as the weather permits, we will continue to do so and perform rescue and relief operations."

"The idea now is to sort of create an air bridge between Meenambakkum (airport area) and Arakkonam (airbase) and fly maximum people to safety as soon as possible.

"The second air bridge we are looking at is between Tambaram and Arakkonam," a senior IAF official said.

"There are two C-17s stationed at Arakkonam. It has a capacity to carry 250 people and as needed they will flown to Bangalore or Delhi. 'Chetak', 'Cheetah' and 'Mi-17s' are performing sorties for relief and rescue. We also have two helicopters on standby at Tirupati," Air Marshal Nair said.

The senior IAF official said that "about 1,200 people are to be rescued or taken to safety in next few days. We are doing rescue as per the situation."

The Tambaram Air Base today also sent out at least a tonne of relief material made out in bags for aerial distribution in several areas.

"These food materials include breads, sweet breads, etc... We have to also send several hundreds of bags to a hospital in Chennai, which has been badly hit by the rains," Lal Chand Saini, a staff at the Base, handling the relief material packaging, said.

Air Commodore Gupta said the Tambaram Base is at higher altitude and so nearby areas here are safe. The rescue operation in the rain-hit areas are going on in full swing with the Army, Navy Air Force and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) working in tandem for it.

"Three teams of NDRF were flown in to Tambaram yesterday from Chandigarh while another one joined in from New Delhi. All assets of the IAF have been pressed into service and we will bring succour to people as early as we can," an IAF spokesperson said.

Railway stations have turned into impromptu shelters while hotels and rescue camps are bursting at their seams as people rendered homeless are looking for a roof over their heads in the inclement weather.

Students, poor and needy have made the Tambaram station practically their home. The weather for the next three to four days have been forecast to get worse, with heavy rain predicted. 

PTI

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