TN rains claim 10 lives; Wasn’t sufficiently forewarned, says state govt

As many as 133 mobile medical teams are ready to render requisite healthcare services including examination of people rescued from flood-hit regions, officials said.

Chennai: Unprecedented rains that battered south Tamil Nadu claimed 10 lives and brought the region to a standstill, leaving individuals, families, and a trainload of people stranded for days. While there was a brief respite from the incessant downpour on Tuesday, collaborative efforts from the Defence, national, and state disaster response forces took the lead in executing rescue and relief operations.

Indicating that the state was not sufficiently forewarned of what was coming, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Shiv Das Meena said on Tuesday that the forecast of heavy rainfall by India Meteorological Department was ‘wrong’ as extremely heavy rainfall was received in the affected districts within a short period of two days.

“Ten people have died in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts due to the rainfall. While some lost their lives due to wall collapse, some died due to electrocution,” he told reporters at the Secretariat.

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Observing that the forecast by the IMD turned out to be ‘wrong’, he said, “The IMD had predicted isolated to heavy, very heavy to extremely rainfall may occur in one or two places. This is what the forecast said. But Kayalpattinam (a municipality in Tuticorin district) received 115 cm rainfall in two days.”

He said southern districts particularly Tirunelveli and Tuticorin witnessed record rainfall and flooding that was unprecedented and historic.

A coordinated effort helped tackle one of the biggest challenges ahead of the state – to rescue train passengers who were stuck in coastal Thoothukudi district. All the 809 train passengers stranded in the heavily flooded Srivaikuntam were rescued on Tuesday, Southern Railway said.

They were taken to nearby Vanchi Maniyacchi Railway station from where a special train is set to take them to Chennai.

The Chief Secretary said nearly 1,343 personnel from Central and state government agencies including the Navy, Air Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force were involved in the rescue and relief operation work across the southern parts of the state.

“Till date we have set up 160 relief camps and about 17,000 people have been accommodated in these relief camps. About 34,000 food packets have been supplied to people and even now, we cannot reach some villages as water level is yet to recede”, he said.

Nine helicopters were involved in relief work and through them 13,500 kg of food was supplied to stranded victims. “There is also a possibility for one more helicopter to join the rescue operation,” he said.

Earlier, Chief Minister M K Stalin urged the Centre on Tuesday morning for deployment of maximum number of choppers. Writing to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Stalin said as of Tuesday morning four Air Force helicopters, two helicopters each from the Navy and Coast Guard were deployed for rescue of stranded people and dropping food items for those marooned.

In a meeting headed by the state governor R N Ravi at the Raj Bhavan here on Tuesday evening, some agencies raised concerns about the absence of coordination in the deployment of personnel and a ‘lack of appreciation’ of the overall situation in the affected districts. Due to this, such agencies ‘have no clear idea’ about the exact resource requirements and priorities in deployment.

Ravi told them to mobilise additional resources and he assured them that he will also facilitate additional resources from Central agencies.

The meeting was held to review the present situation and on-going rescue and relief operations, to bring about better coordination, and to mobilise additional resources for the rescue and relief efforts in the flood-affected areas in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.

State government representatives skipped the meeting chaired by the Governor to review the rescue and relief operations undertaken by Central agencies and Defence forces in the state.

No official from the state government attended the meeting, though a ‘request was sent to the Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu’, to send a representative to the meeting, a Raj Bhavan release said.

Meanwhile, on social media platforms another storm was brewing as the hashtag ‘MissingCM’ targeting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin trended on the social media platform X on Tuesday. Most handles using the hashtag were ridiculing the Chief Minister for attending the opposition INDIA bloc meeting in the national capital rather than visiting the flood-hit places in the state.

The #MissingCM @mkstalin started by BJP Tamil Nadu @BJP4Tamilnadu trended as the party supporters began to post messages flaying the Chief Minister for choosing to attend the alliance meeting rather than visit the flood-hit people in the southern districts.

Stalin had earlier in the day announced that he would visit Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli on December 20 and that today’s visit was to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and seek enhanced flood relief for the people of the state.

The state government said that Ministers and senior highway officials are on the ground to restore road links. Several regions continue to be cut-off in view of blocked roads-highways and such places could be reached only through boats, which is a challenge.

In view of strong water current in several regions even boats could not be used and hence, in such places, ‘we rely on helicopters to deliver food to people.’

According to the state government, only after the flood water recedes, a complete damage assessment could be done and road-network restoration work could be taken up in full-swing by National Highways Authority of India and state highways.

As many as 133 mobile medical teams are ready to render requisite healthcare services including examination of people rescued from flood-hit regions, officials said.

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