Chennai Partial air and train services resumed here on Sunday after days of disruption but intermittent rains added to the misery of a city reeling under the impact of unprecedented rains and floods. Chennai appeared to be split into two: one (mostly northern parts) and suburbs still under flood water and without power, and another where water levels have receded and electricity supply has been restored.
The situation appeared to be no different in the other three Tamil Nadu districts Thiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Cuddalore where the heaviest rains in almost 100 years and floods have claimed around 325 lives. Adding further worries to Chennai is the prediction of more heavy rains following low pressure over the Bay of Bengal.
Much to the relief of passengers stuck here due to cancelled flights and trains, the Chennai airport began operating flights on the domestic routes in day time. “We hope international flights will be operational from Monday,” an official told IANS.
Even while cancelled three incoming trains, regular services from Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore — the two main railway stations — resumed on Sunday. Chennai’s bus services have also improved — a bit. Services of mobile and landline phones are patchy. But supply of oil to fuel stations has improved, officials said.
Despite the rains, the water level was receding in several areas but residents were beset with numerous problems. Large parts of the capital are still without electricity, seriously disrupting life. In some places, greedy traders were making a kill selling water, milk and more at high prices.
“Our apartment is flooded. Yesterday, a man swam to our second floor residence and sold a milk packet for Rs.150,” a woman said, adding she was grateful she at least got some milk. Chennai is clearly angry. People blamed the apathy of civic authorities for the flooding of their homes — and the near destruction of everything they possessed.
“The crisis has shown the true picture of Chennai. Since 2011, the sewage lines were always brimming. The storm water drains were not cleared. When it poured sewage water started overflowing,” resident V. Nitya told IANS. “Roads were laid without digging out the earlier layer, resulting in roads being on higher than ground level. As a result, rain water flooded our homes,” she added.
Another resident, who gave his name as Venkatraman, told IANS that several areas near Perungalathur were still submerged under water. “It will take sometime for the water level to recede in these colonies.” Kodambakkam area residents complained about stagnant sewage water for the past several days.
“No official agency brought us any food or drinking water. Only the residents of neighbourhood gave us biscuits and water,” an angry resident of MGR Nagar in Ramapuram in Thiruvallur told the media. R. Sathya, a north Chennai resident, summed up the city’s mood to IANS: “No one will again call it ‘Singara Chennai’ (Beautiful Chennai). It is ‘Sakadai Chennai’ (Sewage Chennai).”
While ministers are overseeing the relief efforts, they are not available for comments. Even Chennai Mayor Saidai Duraisamy does not talk to the media. Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa made an aerial survey of the affected areas on Sunday. “Water is a great leveller,” moaned Lashman, a resident of Adayar in south Chennai.
“The rich, the middle class and the poor are suffering. The rich may have lost a lot but they will manage. It is the middle class and the poor who are badly hit,” he told IANS. Some two lakh acres of paddy, sugarcane and other crops have been destroyed in Cuddalore district alone.
According to industry body ASSOCHAM, the loss due to floods will be around Rs.15,000 crore. Residents in some Chennai neighbourhoods complained about continued water logging. Thousands have taken shelter under flyovers and in buildings.
Supplies of milk and vegetable showed a marked improvement in parts of Chennai. The military continued its rescue and relief work. But there were complaints that relief material had not reached many areas in north Chennai, causing widespread anger.