India: Caritas rushes emergency aid to flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu

2015-12-03 Vatican Radio

Caritas India, the aid agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, has dispatched some 2.5 million rupees as emergency fund to Tamil Nadu, a southern Indian state battered by the century’s worst floods.

Amrit Sangma, Caritas India communication officer, told Matters India on December 2 that they will provide food, wash kits and clothes to affected people with the support of its four local partners.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded in Tamil Nadu following incessant rains for the past two days. Meteorological Department in the state has predicted heavy rains in the coming four days. More than 270 have been killed in flood and rain related incidents, local newspapers report.

“Based on general understanding in such situations, our effort will be to bring these basic support to neediest families who may be sheltered in school buildings and other government managed camps,” Caritas India Executive Director Fr. Frederick D’Souza, said in a statement.

To begin with, the relief will be concentrated majorly in the three districts of Kanchipuram, Vilupuram and Thiruvallur. Need assessment report in the coming days will further navigate the five member Caritas team assembling tomorrow in the state that is grappling with rain-fed floods for quite some time now, he added.

Meanwhile, authorities have shut the Chennai airport for operations until December 6 and converted the Rajali Naval air station near Arakonam, about 70 km from the Tamil Nadu capital, into a make-shift airport for commercial flights. No flight has taken off or landed at the Chennai airport since Tuesday evening, with water on the runway as the city remains flooded due to heavy rain. 50 trains have also been cancelled, with water flooding rail tracks.

Chennai’s Infotech hub was shut down Wednesday morning following heavy flooding. Most companies are struggling to get the stranded employees home safely. The city is a major IT outsourcing hub for companies including Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant Technology Solutions. In a statement, IT major Infosys said they were closing the campuses as a “precautionary measure”.

The streets of Mylapur are flooded, the cars are half submerged and water is lapping the doorstep of most first-floor houses. "In the morning, the water was ankle deep, now it is knee-deep," said a resident. We are getting panicky. The water is contaminated with sewage," he added.

The two rivers, Adyar and Cooum, are flowing in full spate.  At their banks, huts have been submerged rendering hundreds of people homeless, trucks and buses can be seen toppled by the force of water. Water has entered the ground floor of the high rises some way off.  The homeless have moved to higher ground, their meagre belongings wrapped in bundles, waiting for rescue and rehabilitation.

Elsewhere, the locals are furious with the authorities for releasing waters from the Chembarabakkam dam without any notification. The water level in many of Chennai's residential areas is increasing, owing to the excess water released from the dam at Chembarambakkam. For the residents, what is worse is that the release is being done without warning - in what is understood to be a violation of procedure.

In areas like Kotturpuram, where the waters have receded, residents are living in fear that another bout of water will be released from the dam later today. "What worries us is most is if the worst is over or it is yet to come. The water level is increasing every hour," said a resident in Mylapur, one of the posh areas of Chennai.

"We do not know when the reservoirs are overflowing or how much water is discharged. We do not know when more water will be discharged... We have no power, no internet, or essential items," he added.

On Wednesday, commissioner of Chennai corporation, Vikram Kapur, said the rivers were still at the danger level and the surplus water was being released into Chennai. "None of the drains can work with such heavy rain. If this kind of rain happens again we are in for a tough time," he had said.

The city’s schools have been forced to close and exams have been postponed at least for this week. University exams have also been postponed.

The rains – a result of the returning monsoon and a huge depression in the area — will continue for a week, the met department has warned.

Source: mattersindia.com, NDTV

(from Vatican Radio)