Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that he has instructed the central government to immediately release Rs 1,000 crore for relief and rescue operations in rain-hit Tamil Nadu after he reviewed the flood situation in the state.
“This is over and above the Rs 940 crore which was released earlier,” Modi said as he flew to Chennai in the afternoon. “The government of India stands by the people of Tamil Nadu.”
Modi also held talks with chief minister J Jayalalithaa and governor K Rosaiah.
“I have seen the damage and misery caused by the extremely heavy rainfall,” the PM said, as the death toll in the wake of a torrential downpour crossed the 200 mark.
Taking stock, on the ground...PM taking overview of flood relief operations at INS Rajali, Arakkonam. pic.twitter.com/XY1qm3fwfE— PMO India (@PMOIndia) December 3, 2015
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister had met with urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu and defence minister Manohar Parrikar to review the ground reality.
The meteorological department had predicted that rains would continue till Friday, but with decreased severity. The forecast for Thursday included light rains with possible thundershowers later in the day.
“There will be no respite,” Laxman Singh Rathore of the India Meteorological Department told reporters on Wednesday, raising fears among those affected in Tamil Nadu.
President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his grief and condolences over the loss of life in a message to Tamil Nadu’s Governor, K Rosaiah, conveying his “prayers and good wishes during this difficult time”.
Thousands remained marooned across the state capital and its adjoining districts even as rescue operations were on war footing with the army, navy, coast guard, NDRF, state DRF and police stepping in.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) received clearance to evacuate stranded passengers from the Chennai airport. IAF sources said that civilian passengers would be ferried from Chennai to Delhi and the operations would begin post-noon on Thursday. Two C-17 from the navy’s INS Rajali airbase in Arakkonam, about 60 kms west of Chennai, and one C-
130 J aircraft at Tambaram airbase, have been stationed for reconnaissance missions, they said.
IAF sorties also began reconnaissance trips, dropping food packets for those stranded.
Mahesh Sharma, the minister of state, civil aviation, had earlier confirmed that the naval base would be used for commercial aircrafts. Operations at the Chennai airport have been shut down till December 6. No flight has landed or taken off from the airport since Monday. Some passengers however managed to reach Bengaluru by road.
Panic stricken people have been sending out SOS messages from several parts of the city where flooding has blocked access and exit points. Arterial roads and main roads remained inundated as rain water barely receded.
“The biggest challenge is to find a way to clear the inundated airport and main roads,” said Anurag Gupta at the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in New Delhi.
Rivers and lakes in spate added to the worry as in many places, these water bodies have breached low lying areas.
Many spent the night at makeshift shelters across the city, including the Tambaram railway station that housed stranded passengers.
However, as various people pitched in do what they can, the lack of clear communication has hindered the process. “The entire state machinery has collapsed. Most officials are forced to sit at home. It’s a very frustrating situation,” said a home ministry official, requesting anonymity.
Watch | Flooded Chennai continues to suffer, more to come
The National Disaster Response Force director-general OP Singh said 100 boats and 29 teams were currently in service in Chennai, while fleet Tanker INS Shakti was also reaching the deluged port city with relief materials and medical supplies, according to ANI news agency. Singh was later huddled in a meeting with home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi on the situation.
NDRF spokesperson Capt DK Singh also tweeted images of relief material and personnel landing at the base. “Approx 30 Tons of relief material & 130 NDRF Personnel landed at naval air base INS Rajali, Arakonam (sic),” Singh posted.
Facebook activated their Safety Check feature on Thursday morning, while people travelling to Chennai to help out in the rescue efforts posted about safe road routes.
Some social media users also shared information about a few buses routes going active.
Food and electricity remained dear commodities. Power continued to be shut off in many parts of Chennai and adjoining districts of Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Puducherry.
IT offices, a major part of the city’s business hub, offered employees the option to work from home.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) estimated that financial loss due to the floods is expected to be around Rs 15,000 crore, IANS reported. The State government had earlier put the figure at Rs 8,481 crore after the first spell of rains.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who has been chairing meetings with concerned officials and regularly monitoring the relief and rescue operations, is expected to conduct an aerial survey of the city on Thursday.
Neighbour state Karnataka sanctioned Rs 5 crore to Tamil Nadu to boost rescue operations, besides sending relief materials like clothes and medicines. The chief secretary has also been directed to coordinate with the Tamil Nadu government.
Meanwhile, the Defence Food Research Laboratory in Mysore has readied 3.5 tons of food packets to be dispatched.
(With inputs from Sudipto Mondal and agencies)