CHENNAI: While most of Chennai, barring some pockets, managed to emerge from the floodwaters on Tuesday, thousands of people were stranded on rooftops in several areas towards the south of Tambaram, including Mudichur. As thorny trees made it nearly impossible for even boats to reach them, they had to be airlifted by IAF helicopters.
Officials said about 12,000 people were rescued and nearly 500 airlifted from the flooded areas that extended from Tambaram and covered almost the northern half of Kancheepuram district. While the main reason for the flooding was the release of water from the Chembarambakkam lake, much to the relief of the residents, the outflow has been reduced to 7,500 cusecs from the initial 18,000 cusecs. “We expect the waters to recede in one or two days and normal life to resume,” said R Gajalakshmi, Kancheepuram collector. But continuing rains in the neighbouring Tiruvallur district seemed to diminish this hope and rescue operations continued late into the night on Monday. In areas that could not be immediately reached by rescue personnel, food, water and other essential commodities were air-dropped. Officials said nearly 10,000 packets of food were air-dropped till Tuesday evening to the affected people, who eagerly consumed them as they were without water and food for nearly two days.
Simultaneously, water from several lakes in Guduvanchery, Urapakkam, Perungalathur, Padappai, Mannivakkam and Adhanur started flowing at a faster rate into the Adyar river resulting in flooding of residential areas in West Tambaram, including Sashivaradha Nagar, Mookambikai Nagar, Annai Anjugam Nagar, Samathuva Periyar Nagar and Vasantham Nagar, and stranding people atop rooftops.
Fire service personnel and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed on Monday afternoon to evacuate families using rubber and wooden boats. But they were unable to rescue them as the water speed and volume increased every minute since the quantity of release from Chembarambakkam was being raised according to rising inflow.
Finally, Air Force personnel from Tambaram and military staff were called to rescue hundreds of extremely panicky and anxious families as swirling water surrounded their houses.
About 50 military personnel in four boats and a Coast Guard team of about 20 too joined the Air Force team, which brought helicopters from the Tambaram airbase.
About 30 members of the NDRF assisted the operations in five rubber boats. Additionally, about 40 fishermen with their boats and catamarans were pressed into service.
Until Monday evening, about 12,000 people, including women, children and the elderly, were airlifted or evacuated in boats. The rescue operations are continuing and helicopters are dropping food packets and other essential commodities. Officials are monitoring the situation in the area, closely watching those staying on rooftops and terraces in the event of any building collapse or rising water levels.