Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was leaving for Chennai on Thursday to take stock of the flood situation as rains subdued to a light drizzle on Thursday morning.
The city saw a cloudy Thursday morning as the rain let up overnight though troubles remained. 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.
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 death toll crossed the 200 mark, with fears rising over predictions of heavy rain over the next three days.
The Indian Air Force have readied to evacuate stranded passengers from Chennai airport. IAF sources said that the Force has received clearance from the authorities to ferry civilian passengers from Chennai to Delhi and the operations would begin post-noon on Thursday. Two C-17 from ‘INS Rajali’ airbase in Arakkonam, about 60 km west of Chennai, and one C-130 J aircraft at Tambaram airbase, have been stationed for reconnaissance missions, they said.
Mahesh Sharma, the minister of state, civil aviation, had earlier confirmed that the naval base would be used for commercial aircrafts to help evacuate passengers. Operations at the airport have shut down till December 6 for the time being. No flight has landed or taken off from Chennai airport since Monday. Some passengers 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.
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.
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.
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.
Neighbor 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.