“When Chennai Corporation has a 24-hour emergency service for tree removal, where were those men on Saturday night?” wondered a 65-year-old resident of Srinivasan Street in Mylapore. It was around 9.30 pm on Saturday, when residents of the street rushed out of their houses on hearing a loud bang. The sight of a large uprooted tree on the road greeted them. “The tree was old and had become shaky during the recent rains,” J Raghunathan, a retired engineer and long-time resident told Express.
It is a congested street with cars and two-wheelers parked on both sides of the road. Had the tree fully hit the ground, the vehicles and the compound wall of the opposite building would have suffered serious damage under the impact. “Luckily, the uprooted tree fell on a neem tree on the opposite side, which bore the brunt of the fall and also prevented it from hitting the ground,” he added.
Three cars and a bike were damaged in the tree fall, which also brought the cable wires down. A lamp post also got bent under the impact. As the large tree lay sprawled on the street, cutting off any traffic movement, residents frantically began calling the Fire and Rescue Services. “The ‘101’ service gave us a corporation number that dealt with this type of emergency round-the-clock,” the sexagenarian said.
He said he had around 30 guests waiting to leave after attending a function at his home. Hence, the next half-an-hour saw him and other residents repeatedly dialling the number. “It was clearly the 24-hour emergency number and the personnel told us that they were on the way and would be at the spot in 10 minutes.”
But they never arrived. The efforts of the 121 ward counsellor and other party activists and residents in neighbouring areas like G Kannan of Sivaraman Street also proved ineffective.
“Finally, I told my watchman to cut some of the branches, so that my guests could leave,” Raghunathan said.
It was only around 10 am on Sunday that the Corporation workers turned up. Since it was a holiday, they hired a private firm for removing the tree. After 12 hours, the road was finally cleared for resumption of traffic. “How can it be a 24-hour emergency service,” the residents ask.
Meanwhile, another tree on Karaneeswarar Pagoda Street in Mylapore also gave away on the midnight of Saturday. It fell on a car, damaging it. Corporation workers removed it around 2.30 pm on Sunday.