Chennai, Dec 3 (IANS) Millions struggled to cope with lack of basic necessities on Thursday as floods caused by the heaviest rains in some 100 years kept Chennai under a sheet of water, leaving 269 people dead.
The army, navy and air force continued to rescue people stranded across Chennai and supply food packets to the marooned. Although the showers subsided on Thursday morning, heavy rains have been forecast for the next two-three days.
As soldiers and navy personnel plied boats on the streets of Chennai, rescuing scores, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into the city to study the grim situation.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Lok Sabha that the situation in Chennai and other rain-battered districts of Tamil Nadu was “alarming” and that at least 269 people have died in the nature’s fury.
He said 54 more people have been killed in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and two in Puducherry.
“There are no two opinions that the situation in Tamil Nadu is alarming. It is not an exaggeration to say that Chennai has turned into an island,” Rajnath Singh said.
He said all highways leading to Chennai were closed.
Surinder Singh, a doctor from Delhi who was stuck in Chennai, told IANS: “It looks like the entire city is under one foot of water. In some places, the water level is more.”
“There is nothing like normal life in Chennai. Water overflowing from rivers and reservoirs has reached almost every locality, including the posh areas. Everyone on the streets is barefoot.”
People are perched on their apartment rooftops even in the heart Chennai, anxiously awaiting help, residents who spoke to IANS said.
In several places, power supply and communication lines were down, adding to the misery.
“I have had no drinking water and milk since yesterday (Wednesday),” lawyer Elangovan told IANS from his house in Adayar, located near a river by that name which is now overflowing.
The river, which flows through the city, overflowed as surplus water from Chembarambakkam lake was let into it.
The worst hit were the poor, tens of thousands of whom live in makeshift homes in low-lying areas.
Several hundred passengers remained stranded at the railway stations, including the main Chennai Central. And with the Chennai airport shut till December 6, stranded passengers tried to make their way to Bengaluru and Madurai.
Banks advised customers to use ATMs to take out cash as some branches would not open.
The flood waters have gone into apartment blocks, shopping malls, markets, government offices and private establishments almost uniformally across the city barring some quarters.
There was some respite as the rains abated late Wednesday until Thursday morning. But there was no sign of the water level receding. And it started to drizzle again on Thursday.
Rajnath Singh said 30 teams of the National Disaster Response Force and seven columns of the army were engaged in relief and rescue work. The navy has deployed boats and divers.
He said the central government would provide all necessary assistance sought by the Tamil Nadu government.
The Tamil Nadu government has sought Rs.8,480.93 crore and Rs.940 crore has been released.
The Indian Air Force flew 200 people to Hyderabad.
The Southern Railways on Thursday cancelled 20 trains out of Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore stations and seven trains from other stations.
People in many areas have opened up their homes to affected people. Some distributed food to those marooned and hit by the floods of the past four days.
Chennai has been battling heavy rains since early November due to a low pressure area over southwest Bay of Bengal.