As Chennai recovers from the most ravaging floods the city has seen in a century, residents and volunteers are complaining about the ineffectiveness of badly coordinated relief efforts.
“This is something of a mega destruction movie,” said Srinivasan, who lives in the city’s suburb of Nungambakkam. “It’s bizarre and unreal.”
Since October, flooding has killed at least 272 people in the region, according to the National Disaster Response Force.
Torrential rains on Dec 1 left large sections of capital Chennai under up to eight feet of water, and trapped people on rooftops with no communication. About 28,000 people have had to be rescued.
According to Indian media, the flooding knocked out government services, left people stranded and made small boats a commonplace sight in city streets.
The National Crisis Management Committee recently said about 90 per cent of the city has power and buses are running again. Telephone services are not yet fully functional.
The domestic terminal of Chennai airport resumed functionality on Sunday, and the international terminal is expected to resume operations soon.
A late response:
India deployed hundreds of extra soldiers and relief workers to the flooded city of Chennai on Saturday, as residents complained about the government’s slow response in providing relief efforts.
Although the rains stopped a few days ago, and Chennai’s airport partially re-opened on Sunday, more than half of the city remained flooded with residents still trapped on rooftops, too scared to wade through the water, officials said.
So far, more than 1.27 lakh people have been evacuated from the inundated areas, with over 10,000 being rescued in the last two days, according to official estimates reported by Indian media.
But despite shelter provided by government-run and independent relief camps in Chennai, the conditions pose a health threat because of a lack of adequate number of toilets.
Relief is yet to reach those living in interior areas and localities where the extent of damage is not as grave as in the southern suburbs but nonetheless bad.
A coordination nightmare:
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is serving as the government’s main relief centre, and hundreds of other independent centres collecting relief material remain disconnected, reported Indian media.
“Had there been a media centre and frequent briefing from the government on the status of flood-hit areas and the relief work, it would have been great for hundreds of relief workers,” said a volunteer.
Residents say the city authorities gave no warning that they were going to open overflowing reservoirs into the Adyar river, which led to sharp rise in water levels.
Vikram Kapur, a commissioner of the Chennai Corporation, a government body that administers the city, said that employees had gone to forewarn residents when the reservoir was opened up. “The local corporation official, the water works officer and the police are given instructions to inform the public,” Kapur said.
In Jafferkjanpet and Vellachery, two of Chennai’s worst affected areas, some said the authorities had only just showed up with food only two days ago.
“We have had no power, no milk for the children,” said M A. Sheikh, accusing the government and media were giving a false picture of the relief effort. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the city this week he announced 10 million Indian rupees of extra assistance for relief operations.
The State government also appointed Ministers to distribute milk and other amenities to affected people. 2,000 sanitary workers were brought from other Municipal Corporations to assist with garbage clean-up.
However, a section of the flood-affected people and volunteers, actively carrying on relief work, complained that the administration needs to walk the extra mile to complete the job at hand.