Flights in and out of Chennai remain suspended till 6am on Thursday morning due to heavy rains and water logging on the runway, while movement of railway traffic in the city and other parts of the state was severely affected on Wednesday by the continuing downpour, said to be the worst in the last ten years.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) to all air operators in this regard, an AAI spokesperson said in Chennai. Chennai Airport authorities had initially shut operations till Wednesday morning but due to incessant rains it decided to extend it.
Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is a notice containing information concerning the establishment, condition, or change in any facility, service or procedure, among others, in airspace management.
All airlines have cancelled their operations from Chennai airport. Spicejet has cancelled all its flights till Thursday, while Jet Airways has cancelled all its flights to and from Chennai for Wednesday.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju said everything has been paralysed at the airport. “A lot of things are stranded at the airport. So the chairman of Airport Authority has tried to develop a plan to make available some essential material like drinking water, and food...staff is also trying. Everything is paralysed,” he said.
Asked when the flights can resume, he said, “If the rain stops then only we can give you some type of time frame but if it won’t stop then we can’t say anything as Chennai and neighbouring districts are badly affected. If water recedes then only we will be able to to do something”.
Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha maintained that the safety of passengers is a matter of top priority for the government. “Safety of the passengers is the priority and we would take adequate steps to ensure the safety of the passengers. The services have been seriously hit, and the exact figures are not there, I would share it when it comes,” Sinha told the media in Chennai.
Sinha also said that the ministry has asked the officials to keep a close eye on the situation. “Directions have been given to officers to treat the safety of the passengers with the topmost priority,” he added.
Heavy rains since Monday night pounded several parts of Chennai and have completely disrupted normal life. The army and the navy has been deployed in two suburban areas of the city to undertake rescue operations on a war footing.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also met senior cabinet ministers, including Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Venkaiah Naidu and reportedly discussed emergency measures to be taken to assist the government in rain-ravaged Tamil Nadu, and especially help the people of Chennai.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the Government of India was willing to extend all support, saying, “This is not just a Chennai problem; it is a problem of the entire country.”
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar refused to link the rain-ravaged situation in Tamil Nadu directly to climate change, saying it was natural calamity.
“What has happened in Chennai over last ten days is absolutely a very serious situation, this can’t be directly attributed to climate change; it is a natural calamity, but this calamity needs to be tackled effectively, Javadekar told the media in Chennai.