Chennai: An intermittent drizzle since Saturday morning added to worries of Chennai residents, battling the worst floods in a century, and now facing a shortage of drinking water and power amid mounting anger about absence of relief.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the Tamil Nadu floods while relief of Rs 50,000 has also been sanctioned for those seriously injured. At least 325 people have been killed so far.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), which met in New Delhi with Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha presiding, reviewed the situation and announced seven truck loads of dry ready-to-eat food had reached Chennai and 20 trucks were on the way, while the railways will supply two more lakh bottles of drinking water.
Sinha directed that necessary steps should be taken to restore telecom services, while the petroleum ministry was taking steps for availability of petroleum products. State-run banks said they will work on Sunday. A union health ministry team will also soon visit the state to assess the situation.
Armed forces and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams continued operations, switching focus from rescue to relief while the army said it has deployed four medical teams to deal with anticipated problems. Transport links were being slowly restored, with train services expected to resume from Monday, while limited civil flights continued from the naval airbase.
A state government statement said that 11.53 lakh people had been rescued and housed in 5,009 relief camps.
In Chennai, unlike some areas such as Mylapore, Adyar and Annasalai where the water level has receded and electricity supply partially restored, people in many pockets in north Chennai continued to remain cut off.
“Rumours of surplus water being released are also a cause of worry,” said Revathi Vasan, of West Mambalam.
She said power has not been restored in her Janakiraman Street while there is water-logging around her apartment complex and on the roads.
“There is nothing much to say about our situation except that we are still living with our kind neighbours,” she said.
In the neighbouring Kodambakkam area, residents complained of stagnant sewage water and no action on it by civic authorities. Several people complained of the absence of any relief.
“No official agency brought us any food or drinking water. Only the residents of neighbourhood brought us some biscuits, and drinking water,” an angry resident of MGR Nagar in Ramapuram of Thiruvallur district told a local television channel.
In Korukkupet in north Chennai, a resident complained that nobody from the government or any political party visited her locality to offer relief.
Fish carts and two-wheelers were used to transport patients to hospitals during the past three days, said a hospital official.
Director of medical services and quality, southern region at Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, N Sathyabhama said the hospital received patients from several other hospitals affected by floods and power cuts, including some brought by these means. Government-run Royapettah Hospital and Sri Ramachandra Hospitals also got patients from the hospitals affected by floods and power cuts.
Meanwhile, a political spat was sparked over purported attempts by AIADMK members to paste stickers of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on relief material.
PMK leader S Ramadoss alleged vehicles coming from outside to Chennai with relief materials are stopped at the border by ruling party members and let inside only after Jayalalithaa’s picture is stuck on the parcels, and called it an attempt at “cheap publicity”.
Forest Minister MSM Anandan however told reporters that stickers with Jayalalithaa’s image are stuck only on relief materials sent by the AIADMK and not on packs sent by other organisations.
Chennai, and adjoining Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur and Cuddalore districts were battered by record rains for the past one month, leaving at least 325 people dead, several thousands in relief camps and millions affected due to lack of drinking water and power supply.