Chennai Floods: Anger Mounts As Relief Operations Fail To Pick Up Pace

06/12/2015 9:13 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
National Disaster Response Force personnel rescue people stranded in floodwaters in Chennai, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Friday, Dec. 04, 2015. The relentless rains that lashed southern India's Tamil Nadu state for three days eased Friday, but the misery of tens of thousands of people was far from over, with large parts of the main city still underwater along with the region's biggest airport. (AP Photo/Arun Sankar K)

As the incessant rains, which threw Chennai off balance, finally held up, the city was faced with yet another challenge - that of inadequate relief. Though the Army and NDRF teams have been pressed into action, there seems to be growing impatience with the state government's relief efforts.

The Times of India reports: "On day four of the latest round of rain onslaught, anger swept across the city as state departments fumbled with the key task of coordinating among central agencies and NGOs raining relief materials on the state and the virtual crumbling of Chennai's infrastructure. The unprecedented deluge and floods had exposed the city's weak links, its drainage system, poor planning and non-existent disaster management plan."

Tamil Nadu's unpreparedness in dealing with a disaster of this proportion is being discussed and criticised relentlessly in the social media. After 18 critically ill patients died in the MIOT hospital due to power failure and dysfunctional generator, bodies of a retired Army personnel and five others were retrieved by the security forces in Nanambakkam nearby. It is being suspected that they must have been caught unawares as the government released 50,000 cusecs of water without warning from the Adyar river, flooding their homes while they were asleep at night.

The Hindu reported that efforts of the Army and NDRF are being hindered by the lack of logistical support from the state - they are being provided with very little information about the areas of the state that need immediate rescue forces. Some Army personnel also alleged that they were being bombarded with requests with rescue VVIPs first.

"In the absence of a coordinated flow of relief materials to the affected areas through a State nodal agency, volunteers of non-governmental organisations and philanthropists who headed to relief camps in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Cuddalore were confronted allegedly by unruly political elements who sought to hijack their relief efforts. Social media was abuzz with complaints from volunteers who brought loads of relief materials for distribution to the affected people that some ruling party functionaries forced them to stick the photographs of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on the parcels. In some places, they were allegedly not allowed to distribute the aid until they agreed to allow some politicians to “inaugurate” the relief camp," the Hindu report states.

Another Hindustan Times report said that while some areas of Chennai are reeling under the drinking water shortage, other areas has had no power for four days. Some other areas of Chennai are faced with the imminent threat of infections as sewage water has not been pumped out yet.

There have also been reports of discrimination against the poor in relief camps. A report on Hindustan Times said that groups of garbage collecters and rag pickers have complained that they have been ill-treated at relief camps. A 25-year-old man told, who has sought shelter in a high school near Kotturpuam market has said that he and his family were denied entry into the classrooms of the school.

Indian Express reports that with schools and other such buildings filling up fast, people have had to seek refuge under flyovers and have been spending nights on trucks and bullock carts. Women are the worst affected in these situation. Not only are they having to jostle for space in the overpopulated relief camps, toilets are a big challenge at these spaces. There are not enough toilets and some of the ones which are there, are nearly unusable. IE quotes a Sathyanagar resident as saying, "“One of the biggest problems is the lack of toilets. All the people here cannot use the few toilets in the school. Before sunrise, when it is still dark, women have to go with the men to the railway tracks… It is a matter of indignity. There were a couple of makeshift toilets created under the flyover but no water provision was made, and they soon fell into disuse." Over 500 homes in Sathyanagar have been flooded.

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