Chennai floods: Helplines inundated, people struggle to contact authorities

The Greater Chennai Corporation, Chennai City Police and the administration however have been responding on social media promptly.
Rescue operation in Chennai
Rescue operation in Chennai Twitter/ Southern Command Indian Army

Several residents of Chennai who are in need of relief and rescue forces as rain continues to lash the city, have complained that the helpline numbers released by the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) are not helpful. Residents who have tried the toll-free hotline number (1913), the Whatsapp number (+91 9445477205) and the other landline numbers released by the corporation, have reported that either no one answers the calls or that the lines are constantly busy.

Nithya, a resident of Alandur (Zone 12), whose house has been flooded due to continuous rains told TNM, “The ground floor has been flooded by hip-level water and the tenants have sought refuge in the first floor. I tweeted about the situation and tagged the corporation for help and they asked me to contact the helpline number. I tried to reach them thrice but no one answered.” Her neighbourhood houses several senior citizens, she said. 

Another resident from foreshore estate who contacted the WhatsApp number said, “They didn’t pick the calls at first. But then the lines got busy,” the resident whose house has also been flooded by rainwater, told TNM. Kavitha, a resident of Perungudi in Zone 14 of Chennai, who tried all the provided helpline numbers to seek the help of rescue forces as water levels have increased at her place of residence also said that she couldn’t receive help.

In Madipakkam’s Enfield avenue, three snakes were spotted by residents. Vimala, one of the residents who tried to contact the helpline numbers said that they received no help as helpline numbers remain unresponsive. “The situation is scary because we have not received any help yet,” she told TNM. Lakshmi Sundar, a resident of RS Puram, said that though she is safe, she has been trying to get help for others. “I tried helplines for medicine, relief and sanitation and none of them worked. I tried many times, but it did not connect. I tried for Nanganallur region, where there is heavy water inundation.”

Sarayu Raghavan, a volunteer who is compiling a list of helplines and passing on other information, says that calls were not getting through primarily because of network issues. “There is a limited network in a few areas, and when hundreds of people try calling the helplines, it becomes difficult to reach through. But it is easier to communicate via messages and texts. My suggestion would be for the government to start more helplines and enable texting systems for seeking relief,” she adds.

The Greater Chennai Corporation, Chennai City Police and the administration however have been responding on social media promptly. Here too, people have complained that the helplines were not reachable most times.

“Even during the last floods we saw that telephone lines collapsed. It is important that a messaging system is devised. People are able to send texts, sometimes WhatsApp messages too,” a citizen volunteer said.

 It is to be noted that several parts of Chennai received more than 20 cm rainfall in the last 24 hours after being hit by Cyclone Michaung. As of 12:30 pm on December 4, Cyclone Michaung has intensified as a severe cyclonic storm and is 90 km northeast of the Chennai coast. It is expected to move along north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh before making landfall between Nellore and Machilipatnam at 11:30 am on December 5. 

Helpline numbers:

Chennai corporation (tree fall/waterlogging) -1913

Electricity - 94987 94987

Metro water and sewage - 044 4567 or 1916

Snake rescue - 044 2220 0335

LPG gas leakage - 1906 

Chennai metro rail - 1860425 1515

Blue cross (animal rescue) - 

Chennai Cares (on X) - @ChennaiCares

Ambulance - 108 

Police - 100 

Traffic police - 103 

Childline - 1098 

Women’s helpline -181

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