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Hometamil-naduSouth TN in distress: Villages cut-off due to rains, still inaccessible

South TN in distress: Villages cut-off due to rains, still inaccessible

Chennai: Hundreds of villages in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts of Tamil Nadu continued to remain under water for the third consecutive day with rescuers unable to reach them, even as the state government with help from the armed forces mounted massive efforts to rescue and move to safety people whose house were marooned in accessible areas.

As the situation continues to be grim with reports from the two southern districts saying that people in several hamlets are inaccessible even via phone, Chief Minister M K Stalin sought Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s intervention in deploying “maximum number of helicopters” immediately to join the rescue operations and to airdrop food packets.

Air operations at Thoothukudi airport continued to be suspended for the third consecutive day, even as bus services are being run at the minimum with several roads still resembling lakes.

Train services have also been affected with the Thoothukudi railway station coming under water even as the main terminus in Tirunelveli is still swamped.

All 687 passengers who were stranded at the Srivaikundam railway station since December 17 were evacuated to safety on Tuesday evening.

While rescuers have been able to reach maximum areas in the urban pockets, the situation in rural areas in the two districts continues to be bleak. Officials involved in rescue and relief operations said several villages are still inaccessible due to inundation on the roads and it is becoming difficult to access them even through a boat due to strong currents.

Chief Secretary Shiv Das Meena said since mobile networks are down in many rural areas, the rescuers have not been able to contact people in many villages. “The Tamil Nadu Police has rushed about 200 wireless sets to these districts to establish communication with villages,” he added.

Over 1,100 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) are in the field rescuing people from low-lying areas. About 168 personnel from the Indian Army besides teams from Coast Guard and Indian Air Force (IAF) have also joined the operations.

Meena said about 323 boats have been pressed into service to rescue people in marooned areas. “Seven deaths have been reported from Tirunelveli and three from Thoothukudi, which takes the death toll to 10,” the Chief Secretary added.

So far, 10,102 people who have been rescued are lodged in relief camps, Meena said, adding that 100 pumps from Chennai have been dispatched to Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli to drain out the flood water.

“It is a challenge to reach people in many areas to provide them with food and milk packets due to the high level of water. Some places are not reachable even via boats due to high currents,” Meena added.

The situation is particularly extremely serious in Srivaikuntam and Tuticorin towns, due to large flooding in Thamirabarani river and adjoining areas, Sports Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin, who is camping in Thoothukudi, said.

With nine helicopters being deployed by armed forces, Stalin wrote to Singh seeking more helicopters given the enormity of the disaster and the huge number of habitations to be covered.

Chief Minister M K Stalin, who is in New Delhi to attend the meeting of I.N.D.I.A. alliance parties, told a news conference that the rains in southern Tamil Nadu were unprecedented.

“For instance, Kayalpattinam in Thoothukudi received 96 cm of rainfall in just about 24 hours. We have been able to minimise the loss only because of putting in place precautionary measures,” he said.

Stalin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday night and sought Rs 2,000 crore as immediate relief to carry out flood relief measures. He will travel to Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli on Thursday as a Central team will visit the districts on Wednesday.

(Published 19 December 2023, 10:35 IST)

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