CHENNAI: For the first time in its history, Chennai Airport will remain closed for an six consecutive days. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) announced on Wednesday night the airport would remain closed till December 6.
With the Adyar river in spate and overflowing its banks, and with the river flowing right under one of its runways, the Chennai Airport had become a brimming lake.
According to the AAI, by 6 am on Wednesday, the airport’s entire operational complex was under seven feet of water. So inundated had the airport become that over 3,500 persons were stranded within till Wednesday morning and were being evacuated by rescue service teams. The AAI issued a statement on Wednesday that said all the 1500 stranded passengers were being moved out of the airport, while a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) had been issued to all air operators on the suspension of flights till December 6.
The suspension of operations meant that 45 flights had been redirected to other airports in India, along with the passengers, with Bengaluru bearing the brunt of the redirected flights.
SpiceJet released a statement on its own on the condition of their aircraft and the Chennai airport, which stated that the tarmac was under one and a half feet of water.
“We have suspended operations to Chennai Airport because the airport is waterlogged and the tarmac is under one and a half feet of water,” said G K Gupta, chief administrative officer, SpiceJet. The airline has four planes stranded on the ground in Chennai.
A total of 34 planes are grounded at the airport.The AAI, in its latest statement said the Chennai airport had been under two feet of hour.
However the situation deteriorated fast and by 6am on Wednesday morning, the entire operational area was under seven feet of water. Navigational aids at the airport had been switched off because of the heavy waterlogging, said AAI.
However, the inundation is not the major problem, say sources. The support systems were severely strained by the vast overload they suffered through Tuesday night and Monday morning. The Chennai airport is designed to handle 2,500 passengers an hour. Wednesday morning saw nearly 4000 people inside the airport.
The entire baggage handling and cargo handling systems for Chennai Airport are also located in the basement, while the airport floor itself is on the same level as the tarmac, making it susceptible to flooding. Air turbine fuel (ATF) is also routed through supply lines to aircraft by fuel trucks, whose operations have been affected by the water logging.