Chennai flood: Concrete structures would survive but not wood work

Chennai, Dec 9 (IANS) Home owners in Tamil Nadu whose houses remained submerged for a couple of days during the recent floods need not worry about structural stability if there are no visible signs of wall cracks, an expert has said.

The home owners, however, might have to spend on replacing electrical systems — wiring and sockets, woodwork and furniture, he added.

“Most of the structures in the last 30 years were built using reinforced concrete. Concrete under water should not be a problem. Bricks will not give any problem if submerged for days,” Ravindra Getto, a civil engineering professor at Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IITM) told IANS.

When told that sewage water gets mixed with the flood waters, Getto assured that there will be no problem.

In the case of houses with Madras terrace roofs — where wooden beams are fixed across the roof and over which tiles are laid, Getto said one has to check the wood condition and see whether they have given away or were affected by pests.

Heavy rains battered Chennai, Kanchipuram, Cuddalore and Thiruvallur districts for the past one month, resulting in floods.

Kanchipuram, which is famed for silk saris and temples, is located 70 km from Chennai. Thiruvallur and Cuddalore are 39 and 185 km, respectively, away from here.

In Chennai and its suburbs, several houses were submerged totally as the water level rose to the second floor in many places.

On the woodwork, T.M. Ramalingam, a carpenter in Pallavakkam near here, told IANS: “Imported furniture would have gone waste if submerged under the water.”

“Only furniture and doors made of teak wood and water proof plywood would survive under water. All other woods would be damaged,” Ramalingam said.

“People are now repairing the main doors and are waiting for the rains to stop to think about setting right the cupboards, windows and others,” Ramalingam added.

For water seeping up through the floors, Getto said it could be due to stagnant water around the house and also the water level has gone up.

“The only solution is to drain out the stagnant water and wait for the floor to dry out,” Getto said.

According to him, a pit could be dug so that the water stagnant around the building flows into it.

He said the problem could be serious if the water was running fast around the building, washing away some earth under the foundation.

“This could be seen if there are gaps adjacent to the structures. Then the gaps should be filled,” he added.

Getto advised people to build at least two feet above the road level.

Ideally roads should be dug up first and the materials should be reused. This would not result in the road levels going up, he said.

But what is happening in Chennai and other places in Tamil Nadu is that a fresh layer of asphalt is laid over the old road which results in road levels going up.

Over a period of time, the road levels go up to such an extent that all the rain water comes inside the homes, forcing people to spend huge sums to manage the situation or sell out.

“For the climatic conditions in Tamil Nadu, only concrete road is the best solution. Unlike the asphalt roads, concrete roads will be long lasting and there will not be the risk of road level going up every second year,” Getto said.

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