Record rainfall wreaks havoc in Chennai

The overnight rains brought back haunting memories of the devastating floods in December 2015, which killed more than 400 people and left people marooned for a week in Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu fire and rescue team during a rescue operation at a waterlogged area following heavy rain in Chennai on Sunday. (PTI)
Tamil Nadu fire and rescue team during a rescue operation at a waterlogged area following heavy rain in Chennai on Sunday. (PTI)
Updated on Nov 08, 2021 05:24 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Heavy rains lashed Chennai and adjoining districts of Tamil Nadu from Saturday night through Sunday as the city witnessed the highest rainfall in a single day since 2015 due to the northeast monsoon, which has been impacted by continued La Nina, a complex weather pattern caused by variations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial band of the Pacific Ocean. No death was reported, official said.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a forecast of heavy rains for the next two days in Chennai, forcing the government to announce the closure of all educational institutions for the next two days in four districts, including Chennai.

For 24-hours from 8.30 am on November 6, Chennai received 210 mm of rainfall, according to the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC). “This is also the highest amount of rainfall recorded in a single day in Chennai since 2015 (when it rained 494 mm on December 1),” said deputy director of RMC, N Puviarasan.

Vehicles were stranded on inundated arterial roads in the city, people waded through knee-deep water and on residential roads, water entered many houses. Water was also being released from three reservoirs outside of Chennai, so government officials advised people living in low lying areas to move to shelters and remain alert.

The IMD (IMD) said that the ‘extremely heavy rainfall’ over north coastal Tamil Nadu would continue on Sunday. “A Depression has formed over the East Central Arabian Sea,” IMD said in a statement. “It is likely to move west-northwestwards and maintain the intensity of Depression during next 48 hours and weaken gradually thereafter.”

The overnight rains brought back haunting memories of the devastating floods in December 2015, which killed more than 400 people and left people marooned for a week in Tamil Nadu.

On November 6, 2015, Chennai received 246.5 mm of rainfall on a single day--which was the highest in the last ten years registered solely for November then. Following that, in 2017 and 2020 November, the city recorded 182.7mm and 161.8mm of rainfall in November. “These rains would be classified as an extreme weather event in Chennai as rainfall has crossed 20cm,” said Puviarasan. The record rainfall for the month is 452 mm, in 1976 on November 26.

Eleven districts — Chennai, Karur, Thiruvallur, Pudukottai, Sivagangai, Trichy, Namakkal, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Virudhunagar and Erode — have received more than 200 mm of rain in the past 24-hours, chief minister M K Stalin told media on Sunday. He announced a two-day rain holiday for all educational institutions in Chennai and the adjoining districts of Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur and Chengalpet after he inspected flood-affected areas in the city along with senior bureaucrats and ministers and distributed relief materials and food to people.

The chief minister urged people to postpone travel to Chennai by another two days. He said that the government distributed 50,000 food packages, and motor pumps have been deployed at 500 flooded areas. 160 shelters have been readied in Chennai, which will provide food, stay and medical care. “So far, people have been accommodated in 44 shelters,” Stalin said. “I’ve ordered for all relief work to continue and to immediately address people who are affected. I’ve instructed government officials and all elected representatives have to coordinate for this work.

“The last regime (AIADMK) didn’t do any (work) for the past ten years,” Stalin said, responding to a question. He added that the ruling DMK is working to prevent flooding. “We are satisfied with 50% of the work we have completed. The remaining will be completed after the rains are over.”

The AIADMK’s dual leadership, O Panneerselvam and Edappadi Palaniswami released a joint statement to take immediate steps to safeguard lives, livelihood and property. “The current situation raises doubts if the government took precautionary measures to mitigate the impact of the rains,” their statement read.

Around-the-clock toll-free number, 1070, is in operation for the public to contact with rain-related grievances. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed a team each at Tiruvallur, Chengalpattu and two teams to Madurai for relief and rescue efforts. NDRF’s 24x7 control in Arakkonam is monitoring the situation along with the state, the department said in a statement.

In October, the state had appointed 15 IAS officers as monitoring officers for the northeast monsoon, which annually gives rainfall between October and December. The health department is operating more than 500 mobile medical units to provide screening services in rain-affected areas to monitor Covid-19, dengue as water, air and vector-borne infections are expected after such heavy rainfall, health secretary J Radhakrishnan said in a message to all district collectors.

Tiruvallur district administration in a statement said that 3000 cusecs of water were released from Poondi reservoir starting from 9 am on Sunday, and 500 cusecs of water were released from the Puzhal reservoir from 11 am. The state also released a statement that 500 cusecs of water would be released from the Chembarambakkam reservoir near Chennai from 1.30 pm on Sunday. Sudden excessive water released from Chembarambakkam had caused severe flooding back in 2015.

Flight services continued at the Chennai airport, but the government suspended local train services partially. Officials of the Indian coast guard used loudspeakers to issue a warning to fishermen at sea and directed them to return to the shores and nearest harbours. Residents of a low-lying area in Chennai’s Velachery parked their cars atop a flyover so that their vehicles aren’t submerged. “Rainwater has entered our homes since the past four days,” said R Mahendran, a resident of Madipakkam near Velachery. “Now, snakes are coming into our homes, and we complained to the corporation, but no action has been taken.”

“A cyclonic circulation lies over Southeast Bay of Bengal and adjoining the equatorial Indian Ocean extending up to 4.5 km above mean sea level, RMC said in a statement.” Under its influence, a low-pressure area is likely to form over the southeast Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood around November 9. It is expected to become more marked and move towards the north Tamil Nadu coast during the next 48 hours.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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