The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Floods bring Chennai to a halt
- power, phone lines snap in rain

Chennai, Oct. 27: Vehicles waded through waist-deep water and desperate residents scrambled on to fishermen’s boats as heavy rain paralysed life in the Tamil Nadu capital today, flooding roads, snapping power lines and disrupting flights.

Swamped by incessant rain since last night, the Jayalalithaa government requested the army and the air force to stand by. “We seem to be passing from one disaster to another since the tsunami,” said state relief commissioner R. Santhanam.

“We have already evacuated about 50,000 people from the flooded low-lying areas in Chennai and its suburbs. Over 100,000 food packets have been distributed for lunch in the temporary shelters set up in community centres.”

Panic gripped the metropolis after the torrential rain submerged key roads and entered homes in several areas. Twenty-seven centimetres of water were dumped on the city since morning. In the five hours between 3.30 and 8.30 am, the skies rained 21 cm on Chennai.

Fishermen’s boats evacuated hundreds of people from low-lying areas in north Chennai, while dozens of schools were turned into temporary shelters.

Strong winds uprooted trees and snapped power and phone links in some parts of the city. A host of anonymous messages added to the anxiety as people groped for information amid a power shutdown.

One SMS read: “In Chennai, Kolathur, Rajamangalam, Anna Nagar, Vedapalani, Koyambedu, T. Nagar, P.H. Road, Mylapore, Tambaram and Perry’s Corner (all key areas in the city), the current wires are cut and fallen in water and more than 10 people died.”

Santhanam denied that so many had been electrocuted. He said chief minister Jayalalithaa has, “as a precautionary measure”, instructed the state electricity board to switch off power supply, “particularly in those areas” where the level of water is rising.

Later in the evening, power supply was partially restored in some parts of the city, prompting the more enthusiastic Diwali shoppers to step out of their homes.

Police sources confirmed two electrocution deaths in the city today even as the toll from the rain across the state touched 64.

The Met office said the next two days could see heavy to very heavy rain, accompanied by strong winds. “Heavy to very heavy rainfall accompanied by squally winds with speeds of 55-65 km per hour in north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh are expected,” said S.R. Ramanan, the director of a Chennai cyclone warning centre.

“I have never seen such water-logging in Chennai,” said Sakthi, who works for a private security agency.

The rain crippled the public transport system, forcing many to skip work. Some top infotech companies, however, functioned. Pick-up buses for their staff could be seen plying the pot-holed roads.

The Southern Railway cancelled all out-going trains. The flooded runway at the Chennai airport forced the authorities to divert seven international flights, sources said.

The Inner Ring Road, which connects the two major national highways ' one towards Kanyakumari in the south and another towards Calcutta ' was severely affected. Caught in a traffic snarl, buses and trucks inched forward while uprooted trees added to the chaos.

Jayalalithaa visited some of the worst-hit pockets.

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