Residents of Chennai woke up to the sight of fallen trees and damaged electric poles on Monday. In the aftermath of Cyclone Vardah, many found the entrance to their houses blocked.
However, within a span of few hours, many workers had turned up, offering to clear the debris, but were ready to do it only in exchange for a sum.
According to official statistics, 3384 trees were uprooted in the storm, while 3400 electric poles and 30 transformers were damaged.
"We can't wait for the Corporation to come and clear this, or we won't be able to leave our house for a week," says Santosh, a resident of Tirumangalam.
"I'm paying Rs 2,000 in total for two labourers - Rs 1,000 per head, and they will clear everything. I can go to work again from tomorrow and at least I'm taking care of the fallen trees outside my house, so it is one less task for me and the state," he adds.
In the few places that TNM enquired, the rates ranged from Rs 500 per head for smaller branches, to Rs 2,000 per head for larger trunks and untangling wires.
Others, preferred to do it by themselves. "We have been working from yesterday evening and clearing the debris, so that people and vehicles can pass. We all know how much we can depend on the state, now with Amma too gone," says Parthasarthy, referring to the recent death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
(Parthasarathy is the one holding the stool)
Parthasarthy, a small scale businessman, had also roped in help from an acquaintance.
"I called him today morning to help out, so we can clear it quickly, and get on with our personal work," he adds.
Meanwhile, many others have no choice but to wait for the state machinery.
"We can only clear trees that are of a certain size. For this, we need the government and large JCB machines," says Satyanarayan, as he points to two massive trees that were uprooted in the storm, along the Anna Nagar North main road.
The two fallen trees, blocked an entire stretch of the road among them, trapping at least 4 to 5 houses in the process.
"We can only walk and go till the government clears this. But hopefully, they will do it soon," a local says, as he watches men at work, chain sawing their way into one of the trees.
Even if the trees were cleared, restoration of electricity might still take days.
"It will take at least two to three days. First, they have to clear the trees and the streets, then we have to lay new cables altogether. Most of the wires are lost," an electricity board official who came to survey the street, said.
With the city witnessing strong winds gusting upto 140kmph, and recording more than 10cms of rainfall, the Tamil Nadu government on Monday night said that 4 people were killed in the cyclone, 2 in Chennai, 1 in Kanchipuram and 1 in Nagapattinam, while 10,432 people were evacuated to cyclone shelters.
"I was watching from my balcony when the trees started shaking violently and fell one after the other ina matter of minutes. After the trees fell, our lane started filling up with water. It is stagnating since last night. The authorities should work faster and clear it, or else it will cause diseases, which will only add to the problems," says Bhaskaran, a State Health Department Employee, who stayed at a government quarters nearby.
"I have never seen anything like this. I couldn't even think about driving my auto. The wind would've carried it away with me. We were already finding it difficult to drive when the rain started because the accompanying winds were making it tough to control the vehicle. In the afternoon, we all got off the streets to be safe," says Shankar, an auto driver.
All pictures by Nitin Bhaskaran