More than 100 people were airlifted to safety by Thursday afternoon as rescue and relief operations picked up steam in rain-affected Chennai.
Rescue efforts were carried out by teams from the Indian Army, IAF, NDRF and state police. The operations were based out of the Tambaram air base, situated 30km from Chennai, and the Rajali naval base in Arakonam, located 40km west of Chennai.
As many as 1,200 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) officials were deployed across the city while the coast guard put into action rubberised motor boats to ferry some of the three million people marooned by floods triggered by the worst rains in a century.
Rescue teams from the India Air Force (IAF) conducted aerial recces, revealing harrowing tales as airports, bridges, and housing colonies were seen submerged in 8-10 feet water.
IAF sorties began by afternoon, dropping food packets for people and conducting surveys. Navy Chief Admiral RK Dhowan said the INS Airavat, deployed from Vizag with diving teams and boats, had reached Chennai to join rescue efforts.
People raised their hands seeking help from roof tops as IAF aircraft flew past them.
Among those evacuated was a pregnant woman from one of the worst-affected areas. She was brought to the Tambaram Air Base in a Chetak helicopter, and was then immediately transferred to the Base Hospital.
“We moved to the fourth floor of our house as the first and the second floors were inundated. We had lost all hope until they rescued us,” she told PTI.
About 50 students from SRM University, who were left stranded in the city, were also brought to the Tambaram Air Base from where they were flown to Bangalore and Delhi.
With heavy rains lashing the capital city, especially in the last three days, several areas remained inundated, with water reaching up to the second storey in certain areas.
WATCH: 1 food packet lands on rooftop, woman signals to IAF chopper to not drop more saying its sufficient pic.twitter.com/5d0H0DTY05— ANI (@ANI_news) December 3, 2015
“We are fully prepared to tackle this situation and are carrying out regular sorties. We performed several relief and recce sorties today (Thursday), as we have to save those who are badly stranded as well as give food items to those who are stuck in their homes,” Air Commodore Rippon Gupta said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at Arakkonam and undertook an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa too conducted an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas as civic authorities used bulldozers and bags of concrete to repair collapsed roads, while several bridges went under water as urban lakes breached their banks.
Urban volunteer teams coordinated over social media to distribute provisions, cooked food and ferry people out of inundated houses and apartments.
“Chennai has become a small island. This is unprecedented,” home minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament. “Rapid rescue and relief is the need of the hour. We are working very hard to restore normality.”
The army said it evacuated over 18,000 people from rooftops and outlying villages while the fire department rescued around 5,000 people.
“There are lots of calls saying snakes have entered houses,” said an official. The fire department has around 700 personnel, many of whom haven’t gone home since Diwali.
But sporadic electricity supply and clogged telephone lines has hit operations with police having to rely on walkie-talkies and diesel generators.
Watch | Flooded Chennai continues to suffer, more to come
In a few areas where the water managed to drain away, the state road transport corporation resumed part of the city’s bus services. Some of the highways leading into the city were also reportedly active again as people posted on social media the best ways to reach Chennai.
“We have 30 teams, each having 40 members and we plan to concentrate in the areas of south Chennai which are the worst affected,” NDRF chief OP Singh said.
The force has deployed about 110 inflatable and other boats and separate assortment of buoys and life jackets, he said.
Two NDRF teams were working along the Adyar river in the heart of Chennai to rescue marooned people while 200 army troops were in action at Kancheepuram, which was also battered by heavy rain in the past fortnight.
Two other NDRF teams were helping with efforts in Puducherry, home minister Rajnath Singh informed the Lok Sabha on Thursday afternoon. More NDRF teams are expected to reach Chennai and its adjoining districts from Uttar Pradesh.
(With inputs from agencies)