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The devastating impact of Cyclone Michaung, which made landfall in Andhra Pradesh on December 5, has left parts of Chennai in a state of severe distress. Characterised by its super-cyclonic intensity, the cyclone unleashed a torrent of rain, leaving several localities in Chennai under water on Wednesday even about 30 hours after the rain stopped.

The shortage of essentials like drinking water and milk, besides diesel, has added to the growing desperation across the city. Power outages, too, have sparked protests, with residents taking to the streets after being without electricity for three days.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin has sought Rs 5,060 crore from Prime Minister Narendra Modi as interim relief to address the damages. This request comes as the state government begins a detailed assessment of the impact.

As the city has been struggling to return to normalcy with 17 deaths as per official estimates, the disparity in recovery efforts across different areas is stark. While main city areas have seen a restoration of traffic on major roads and a recession of floodwaters by Tuesday evening, several other localities remain submerged in water.

Busy middle-class neighbourhoods that emerged in the last two decades in South Chennai – Velachery, Ram Nagar, Kovilambakkam, Pallikaranai, Madipakkam, and Perungalathur are among the worst hit, with some streets still submerged under 7 to 8 feet of stagnant water. Houses on ground floors are completely inundated, and the situation in Vijayanagar, with over 4 feet of water, is no less severe.

Boats have become the only mode of transport in many submerged streets. Rajendran, a resident of Velachery said milk costs as much as Rs 50 to 100. “There’s no power, and we’re carrying children through these waters,” he said.

In the flood-ravaged streets of Velachery and Kovilambakkam, the reality is grim as the Velachery Lake that reached full capacity wasn’t helping the water to recede from surrounding areas.

Trapped Chennai residents

As residents could not wade through the water with their belongings, Thoraipakkam also was a scene of desperation when The Indian Express visited on Wednesday morning. Residents found themselves trapped without access to food and clean drinking water from Monday. Families, stranded without necessities, have resorted to making frantic calls for rescue.

In Tambaram CTO Colony, the situation remains critical, while residents of Mudichur, one of the worst affected localities in the 2015 floods, reported a significant decline in water levels from Wednesday morning.

Jayachandran, a bank employee living in the area, said it remained submerged in over 5 feet of water. “There are pockets where the water level has reached 9 feet. We cannot even boil water for drinking, and using toilets is impossible for people even living on the first floor.”

Protests, frustration

The Old Washermenpet area, north of Chennai city, was another severely affected locality, seeing hundreds of families trapped in congested streets, wading through hip-deep water.

Protests erupted in the area on Wednesday morning demanding government assistance as residents face escalating distress and the looming threat of waterborne diseases.

Vanitha, a resident, questioned the lack of government response. “Why is the water not receding? Why haven’t pumps been brought in to remove the water?”

Her frustration is the same that is being shared by many across the flooded areas.

In areas like Semmencheri, Perumabakkam, and even Arumbakkam near Koyambedu within the city, residents are forced to navigate hip-deep water, and vehicle traffic was virtually impossible till Wednesday morning. Heavy vehicles like JCBs are repurposed to transport people.

Arumbakkam, near Koyambedu, within the city, is similarly submerged.

Many interiors are indistinguishable from a canal, and the power outage exacerbates the situation, leading to over 100 residents protesting on the streets. The cry for help is a recurring theme across these affected areas.

Poes Garden and Kasturi Rangan Road, despite being posh residential neighbourhoods in the heart of Chennai, have also been significantly impacted by the flooding and power cuts.

However, the Air Force Station in Tambaram is a hub of relief activities, with helicopters air-dropping supplies to the most affected areas. Approximately 400 kg of relief materials have been distributed, offering a lifeline to those cut off by the floodwaters.

The Indian Navy’s involvement in evacuations in Madipakkam and Kolathur using inflatable boats has been a crucial element of the rescue operations. The Navy’s efforts have ensured the safe evacuation of many, including vulnerable groups.

Source : The Indian Express Dec 6th 2023

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