Horrifying tales were heard about the night that the water stealthily rose.

Shocking tales of destruction and soaring prices Ekkaduthangal reels under Chennai floods Images courtesy: Nishanth Krish
news Friday, December 04, 2015 - 19:13

For a city like Chennai, which has spent countless years lamenting water scarcity, the last month has been ironic. 

Even as this copy is being written on Friday evening, it has started raining again in many places across Chennai, and one can literally hear people of the city collectively groan with worry. 

The rains have been of epic proportions. The rains have reportedly broken a 100-year record with one day's rainfall covering a month's average. There are bound to be repercussions. 

But could some of the flooding have it been prevented?

Localities in Ekkaduthangal, a locality adjoining the Adyar River near Kasi theatre has been one of the worst affected areas. Mancholai street is the closest to the river to one side of the Kasi bridge. Horrifying tales were heard about the night that the water stealthily rose.

"We heard that a couple who owned a company there were washed away as they were closing up and trying to leave the area that Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning," says a passerby. 

People in some localities in the area were apparently notified on Monday evening that the nearby lake had been opened and that there would be possible flooding. 

"We heard the water was coming so I went to one end of the street to talk to my neighbour. By the time I came back to my house; from both sides water was rising," says Chander*, a resident living in the first floor of a residential house in Ekkaduthangal. He and his family could only stand and watch as the water rose foot by foot around them. 

From the biggest bungalows, large manufacturing buildings to even the small tenements lined across the river, the damage has been immense. 

Jaya TV, the TV channel linked to the ruling AIADMK party which has its building about approximately 500 metre from the river, soon gave up live broadcasts. Vendhar TV is another such TV channel located in the vicinity. 

For now, rates of basic commodities are sky-high - only black tea is available in shops due to lack of availability of milk. Mops, buckets, floodlights, emergency torches are being sold at four or five times the rate, considering the demand. 

In Defence Officer’s Colony, a man smiles as he packs items from an IAS officer’s house. "He’s an IAS officer, and he has moved out," he says smiling mockingly. 

The rain could not be prevented, neither could the flooding beyond a certain time. These are areas that have been developing for the last fifteen to twenty years, so it not may not be fair to blame architects, or even the people of Chennai in the general sense. 

However, what is evident is the sheer display of red-tapism. "If we had been informed of its severity, we would have moved earlier," says a passerby in the Defence Colony area which was heavily affected with waters up to the first floor. 

Even though informal information was echoed, due to lack of persuasion or a formal announcement - by the time residents began realising the gravity of the situation, it was not possible for many to leave the area.

Another manufacturing company which has run huge losses had just moved to the Ekkaduthangal area a week before. "In the previous area we had flooding, so we moved here because it is on a higher level," says the businessman. 

For many factories, godowns and automobile showrooms lining the river in the area, the flooding has caught them by the neck and resulted in huge losses.

"When the water levels began rising in the Adyar river on Monday evening, I personally went down that time to the police officer near the river and asked him if there would be flooding," says Jayaram (name changed on request), the owner of a commercial establishment in the area.

"He told me not to worry and that the levels would not go beyond a few feet," Jayaram says explaining the lack of awareness and the need for a chain of command in relaying essential information. 

By nightfall, water levels began rising up to over neck-deep height in many parts of defence colony and Ekkaduthangal.

Today, the losses for offices in and around the area are expected to run up in crores of rupees.

With no electricity, drinking water, or phone network, it is only so much that people can do. 

Many residents were seen packing and moving to other places. (Water has receded in most places there. There is logging here and there. There is totally no network there. Most important problems they have is drinking water.

 

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