With PM airborne action on ground

Rs 1000 cr in instant relief; water recedes; Navy base is makeshift airport; 6 commercial flights today.

Chennai:  As Chennai and its surroundings battled the fury of nature and Defence forces went all out to rescue thousands of stranded residents, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced an immediate package of Rs 1,000 crore towards relief operations, soon after he under-took an aerial survey of the affected districts. This amo-unt will be in addition to an interim relief package of Rs 940 crore released earlier. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa who met Modi requested him to sanction a relief of Rs 5,000 crore towards relief and rehabilitation from the National Disaster Response Fund. “I have seen the damage and misery caused by the extremely heavy rainfall. The Government of India stands by the people of Tamil Nadu in this hour of need,” the Prime Minister said. Hours later he tweeted, “We are all pained by the devastation in TN. Took stock of the damage, on the ground & through an aerial survey.”

“The Prime Minister agreed with the Chief Minister that the situation in Tamil Nadu was unprecedented and expressed concern at the seriousness of the situation.  He said Chennai is a growth centre and anything that affects Tamil Nadu affects the whole country,” an official release issued by the State Government said later. Jayalalithaa requested Modi to deploy 10 additional Army columns and 20 NDRF teams for speeding up the rescue operations. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has converted the INS Rajali naval airbase in Arakonam in Vellore district into a temporary airport as the Chennai airport runway is flooded and closed till December 6. As a special gesture, the Central Govern-ment decided to operate six commercial flights from the INS Rajali airbase from Friday. The airbase would be used to fly out people out of Chennai at a nominal charge of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per ticket.

Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has announced that no toll will be collected at toll plazas in Tamil Nadu till December 11. Meanwhile, the Army and allied force personnel rescued hundreds of people who were starving without food in their marooned homes and took them to safer locations. Food packets were also airdropped in areas where immediate rescue operations were not possible due to logistical reasons. Most of Chennai continued to go without milk supply — at some places a 500 ml sachet of milk was sold by black marketers for Rs 100. Residents also complained about lack of medicines, milk, potable water, vegetables and public transport.

 A leading English newspaper could not be published as water had entered both its city office and its press in the suburbs. Even newspapers that were printed remained undistributed to households in many localities for the second consecutive day. Worst hit were the poor, tens of thousands of those who live in shanties in low-lying areas. Terming the situation as very alarming, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, “It would not be an exaggeration to say that Chennai has become an island as it has been cut off from all national and state highways”.

The sun smiled on Chennai on Thursday and the water level, thankfully, has started receding in some areas. The Met department also brought some cheer with its forecast that the low pressure will weaken over the next 48 hours. But despite the skies clearing up, the water level has been rising in some areas owing to the periodic releases from the overflowing Chembarabakkam dam. The Adyar and Cooum rivers are swollen and 35 lakes are reportedly flowing at dangerous levels. However, 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; with that the death toll in the state has mounted to 269.

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