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WASHING AWAY

The Indian industrial hub of Chennai is flooded. But a bunch of gritty officials won’t give up

REUTERS/P. Ravikumar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SOS.
  • Niharika Sharma
By Niharika Sharma

Reporter

Published

Torrential rains have sunk Chennai again. The southern Indian city has been battling flooding, power failure, and a considerable loss of property over the past few days. But the industrial hub is fighting back, and on the battlefront are a bunch of police, sanitation, and rescue personnel.

The capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, one of India’s most industrialised states with an estimated $300 billion economy, has had some 500 residential areas flooded, The Hindu newspaper reported today (Nov. 12).

The city has lost 14 lives over the past 10 days. The weather department has warned of more rainfall. Up to 44 relief camps have been set up in and around the city, accommodating nearly 2,250 people. Around 800 huts have been destroyed, according to the Tamil Nadu revenue department.

Educational institutions have been shut and flights suspended.

While it may look like Chennai, located along the Bay of Bengal’s western side, is hanging by a thread, a handful of dedicated officials have shown why the city won’t give up easily.

Heroes of Chennai’s battle against flood

Inspector P Rajeshwari, a city policewoman, was recently seen carrying on her shoulder a man found lying unconscious after a heavy downpour. A video of her efforts went viral showing her placing the unidentified person inside an autorickshaw and directing the driver to take him to a hospital.

In a society where such heroics are mostly attributed to men, Rajeshwari’s act received much appreciation.

Rajeshwari wasn’t alone.

While sanitation workers have been at it round the clock at over 500 clogged locations in the city, officials with the electricity department have had a hard time as well, with many doing their bit even as their own families struggled.

As of yesterday (Nov. 11), around 18,000 rescue personnel on motorboats have negotiated fallen trees and collapsed structures to reach those marooned across the city.

And no, it wasn’t only the government official who kept going.

Chennai: A city under threat

The city of 11 million people and the country’s automobile and auto-component hub has been up against extreme weather over the past few years.

Social media posts showed citizens forced to evacuate their homes and many wading through knee-deep waters.

The nightmarish conditions brought back memories of the 2015 floods in which 150 people died.

“Although meteorologists have ruled out any direct linkage between the ongoing heavy rains in Chennai and adjoining areas with climate change, its contribution cannot be negated completely,” said Climate Trends, a climate-research agency.

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