Chennai Flood, 2015: The Anatomy Of A Disaster

chennai flood
Image | Press Information Bureau

Short Bytes: Know the whole story of Chennai flood date by date — how rain started crumbling down people’s lives day after day and how Chennai was declared a disaster area!

9-10 November:

East coast road, said to be the lifeline of tourism along the Eastern Coast of India, witnessed 483 mm of rainfall in Neyveli on 9-10 November 2015 for the first time. To its records, Bay of Bengal had been a low-pressure belt during the last two months of a year bringing monsoon to the Eastern Coast of India. Intermittent rainfall was taken lightly and did not come into limelight.

The reasons behind the flood were:

  • Neyveli could not make the incessant rainfall news viral because of the low amount of internet users there. And secondly,
  • because of the sameness of the rainfall every year.

Nonetheless, the alarming rainfall had started to catch the attention of media. Thanks to the news wave of “Intolerant India”, the news of incessant rainfall was still sitting in the back bench.

13 November:

There was no respite from the rain as it continued to lash along the East Coast of India – especially cities lying along the East coast road like Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Pondicherry, and Chennai. Rivers like Kollidam, Vellar near Chidambaram, and Pennai river near Cuddalore had already started flowing above their danger marks. NH 45 A and NH 49, two major constituents of the East coast road, were flooded at many places. Transportation was almost half-halted.

Chennai, 13 November:

Due to the illegal constructions, the low-lying parts of Chennai became inundated with the continuing rain. Adyar river, Cooum river, Buckingham canal etc. added more to the fury. It was the precursor of the upcoming havoc. Evacuation of the people from some low-lying areas had already started.

15-16 November:

This date is thought to be the demarcation date for the Tamilnadu. On this date, Chennai received around 245 mm of rainfall, highest since the same month in 2005. This rainfall was brought due to movement of a low-pressure area Northwards along the Tamilnadu coast. Besides Chennai, Ponneri at the border of Andhra Pradesh received 370 mm of rainfall just over 24 hours; and Chennai airport receiving recorded 266 mm of rainfall in 24 hours.
People had started facing long queues of Jam while returning from the office. Vehicles were stranded in the traffic. People walked and waded Kilometers through the heap-deep water to reach their homes. Electricity supply, water supply, food supply etc. were disrupted because of the rain.

Chennai rain low pressure belt on Bay of bengal

17 November:

The flood situation exacerbated on 17th November and most parts of the Chennai city was already flooded. ATM ran out of cash; grocery shop were out of food products; public transport had almost come to a standstill; malls, shops, IT companies were all closed. The flooding situation in Chennai was termed as the ‘Worst in the Century’ because of the additional fact that Chennai has received the highest amount of rainfall since November 1918. The continued lashing of rain had led to schools and colleges remaining closed across the East coast cities like Puducherry, Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur district etc. East coast road was totally flooded. Some of the rivulets and canals were flowing much above the dangerous mark.

Illegal construction and Chennai:

The Main reason for the worst Chennai flood was thought to be the illegal construction in the metropolitan city. Decades ago, this city housed a lot of ponds and water reservoirs which were responsible for accommodating the extra amount of rainfall. Due to illegal encroachments, there were no such ponds left in true sense to accommodate extra rainfall. Even the extra water evacuation plans and ducts were running below the sea level and there was no way left in Chennai to accommodate extra water.

25 November:

The rainfall from the earlier low-pressure system had started to slack down since 17 November. But continuous flow of water coming from all around towards Chennai kept on mounting flood pressure. There was though some respite from the rain but still, the sun had not shown in the sky. Long queues of human and vehicles again were seen on the streets.

29 November:

Even before people had begun to settle down, IMD predicted another series of rainfall from 29 November. Another heavy rainfall brought by low pressure in the Bay of Bengal left Chennai totally crippled. Power supplies were fully disrupted in the flood hit and flood prone areas. City hospitals had stopped working. Trains were being canceled. Many flight has started to divert to major nearby airports like Bengaluru and Coimbatore.

2 December:

Chennai was officially declared a disaster area almost after three weeks when it all began. Because of no power supply, 14 patients died at MIOT hospital. Even though, the flood had begun to recede, still around half of the city was submerged. Fisherman and locals came out with their boats, plastic or handmade and enrolled themselves for the evacuation of old people, children, and ladies. The entire stretch of over hundred Kilometer from Chennai to Cuddalore was flooded.

3 December:

Chennai airport was partially open for the cargo planes bringing relief materials like water bottle, medicines, blanket, food etc. However, due to uncoordinated relief efforts, the rescue efforts could not reach people on the outskirts. People living in the Northern part of Chennai near Ponneri and Pulicat lake were forced to leave their homes behind and flee to nearby relatives in Andhra Pradesh. However, even this option was not available for the people living on the Southern edge of the city like Kelambakkam, OMR, Shollinganallur etc. According to some army personals, the rescue team had to wait for almost 24 hours at the airport because of the uncoordinated relief mission.

chennai airport flooded

5 December:

Intermittent rain kept the whole situation crumbling. People from the nearby districts of Chennai like Kancheepuram, Thiruvallur district were forced to evacuate their homes because of late supplies. Chennai international airport was partially opened for Cargo planes again.

6 December:

Rescue efforts were intensifying. Movie stars, local politicians, sportsmen from even other countries made a lot of donations towards the Chennai relief fund. Movie start and local politicians had come down to the streets to help People. Activists from nearby cities like Bengaluru, Coimbatore and even from Trivandrum personally were going to Chennai to help in the rescue mission. Rescue and relief mission was finally given in the hands of the Indian army. The rescue effort was on full swing.

10 December:

More than 17 lakhs of people had been temporarily housed in over 6500 flood relief camps. 600 boats were mobilized and over 1 crore of food packets had been dispatched. Over 25000 medical camps were set. As the roads got cleared, relief volunteers begun to address the hamlets and villages at the outskirt of the city.

chennai flood rescue

13 December:

Life resumes and returns to normalcy but still in limping condition. Colleges and schools were reopened. Donations keep pouring in and the sun also shows up in the sky.

14 December:

IT companies running in Chennai declare revenue warning because of the forced low productivity of the employees during the flood situation. There shares fall. These companies include TCS & HCL.

Keep yourself tuned for the more updates on Chennai floods.

Amar Shekhar

Amar Shekhar

A passionate adventure traveller over and Author of the book 'The Girl from the Woods'.
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