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regular-article-logo Thursday, 25 July 2024

Cyclonic storm Michaung kills six people, floods streets and homes in Chennai

Authorities evacuate thousands and cut off electricity to worst-hit areas

M.R. Venkatesh Chennai Published 05.12.23, 06:22 AM
Commuters on a waterlogged road in Chennai on Monday following heavy rain owing to Cyclone Michaung.

Commuters on a waterlogged road in Chennai on Monday following heavy rain owing to Cyclone Michaung. PTI picture

At least six people were feared killed in Chennai as heavy rain caused by the intensifying severe cyclonic storm Michaung flooded streets and homes, uprooted trees, and prompted authorities to evacuate thousands and cut off electricity to the worst-hit areas.

There was a scare when crocodiles were sighted in a few lakes near the Vandalur Zoo, 35km from Chennai, apparently brought in by the floodwaters. But the state wildlife department asked people not to panic, saying its officials and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams were keeping a watch.

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Michaung, pronounced “migjaum”, which was over the west-central and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal off the southern Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu coasts, was set to further intensify late on Monday.

Chennai, its suburbs and the northern districts of Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram and Chengalpattu received relentless rain since Sunday night, with the city recording by Monday evening 33cm of rainfall that pinned families indoors.

The authorities provided no casualty figure but officials said at least six people
were feared killed in Chennai alone, some of them from electrocution on the flooded streets.

Past 3am on Monday, the state electricity board disconnected supply to the worst-affected areas following the reports of electrocutions. Uprooted trees snapped electrical wires and cables in many places but mobile phone towers were still functioning.

“Climate change is making storms more intense, adding to rain volumes from warmer seas. How long will we live in denial — that we are the problem?” said an anguished Ananthakrishnan Gopalakrishnan, a senior climate change tracker, in a Facebook post.

Auto driver Janardhanam, from Royapettah in central Chennai, told The Telegraph: “Water has entered our homes, and we are unable to go out with more than knee-deep water encircling our homes. There’s fear of sewage mixing with the rainwater.”

Large stretches of the Chennai-Bangalore Expressway outside the city were under two feet of water.

A post on X from the wildlife secretary tried to assuage fears about the crocodiles.

“Many are tweeting about this video. There are a few mugger crocodiles in several of the water bodies in Chennai. These are shy elusive animals and avoid human contact,” the post said.

“This one has come out as the water has overflown due to massive rains under the impact of Cyclone Michuang please do not go close to water bodies. There is no possibility of harm to humans IF these animals are left alone & UNPROVOKED. No need to panic. Wildlife division has been alerted and they are on the job to avoid any untoward incident....”

The Chennai civic body shifted 2.5 lakh people from low-lying neighbourhoods and areas close to riverbanks to corporation schools, and set up common kitchens for them.

The civic authorities have opened emergency helplines for citizens.

Chennai mayor Priya appealed for patience. “All storm-water drains are connected to the main canals and due to heavy rain even the canals are full,” a statement from the mayor said.

“Hence they closed the shutters to avoid reverse flow. It may take a longer time for the floodwater to recede. Have patience.”

Chennai civic commissioner J. Radhakrishnan hoped the intensity of the rain would reduce in the night with the weatherman predicting that Michaung would turn northwards towards Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh.

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