As heavy rains lashed southern Tamil Nadu, a portion of the railway tracks between Srivaikuntam in Thoothukudi district and Tirunelveli was washed away in the floods. The Chendur Express (TCN MS SF EXP - 20606) had to be halted at the Srivaikuntam station on December 17 around 10 pm. The thousand odd passengers were stranded at the station with the Railways as well as rescue teams from both the state and Union governments unable to reach them for more than 24 hours.
Speaking to TNM, KVS Annamalai, a resident from Thiruvarur district, said that he had visited the Thiruchendur Murugan temple and was on his way home on the train. “I came to visit the temple in Thiruchendur. My wife and I were supposed to get down at Kumbakonam station. The train was halted without any prior announcement yesterday night (December 17) and more than a thousand passengers are stranded here without any help from anyone,” he said. Annamalai added that other than the station master and a helper, there were no other railway authorities at the station.
Cyclonic circulation over the Comorin area caused unprecedented heavy rain in southern Tamil Nadu, causing floods in the districts of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Tenkasi, and Kanniyakumari. The Srivaikuntam village, located around 35 km from Thoothukudi town, was cut off from other places and was completely inundated. Due to this, the passengers on the Chendur Express were stuck as there was no way to leave the train or the station. Without water, food, and other necessities, they were left to fend for themselves for 24 hours.
“The residents from the village who came to know our condition extended their help even though they too faced the same situation due to the rains. They prepared lemon rice and upma and gave it to all the kids who were onboard,” Annamalai said, adding that there was no other help from anyone besides the residents of Srivaikuntam.
Another pilgrim, Rajeshwari, also a native of Thiruvarur district, told TNM that there was a shortage of drinking water and food. “The station is really small and does not have much to offer. The water levels are high all around the station. There is no way to reach the nearest village or town where we can get a bottle of water or anything,” she added. The passengers also asked whether railway officials were aware of the impending adverse weather, and if they did, why did they not cancel the train services.
Meanwhile, Phanindra Reddy, Additional Chief Secretary of the Transport Department in Tamil Nadu, said that water levels were high in that area and rescue teams were unable to access the station. “Food was supposed to be airdropped from a helicopter that came from Sulur air base in Coimbatore. It stopped for refuelling in Madurai and because of bad light, it was unable to proceed further. Rescue teams will be carrying out operations in the morning,” he noted.
Tamil Nadu Home Secretary P Amudha said that food had been arranged for all the passengers with the help of local body authorities and more will be provided.
Tamilisai Soundararajan, Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, said that she contacted Darshana Jardosh, Union Minister of State for Railways and Textiles, regarding the stranded passengers and sought immediate help from the Union government.
As per reports, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are already near the station where the train is stranded and are likely to carry out rescue operations on the morning of December 19.
Thoothukudi district received heavy rains between December 17 and December 18, recording 37.96 cm of rainfall in 24 hours. While the collectorate was inundated, many houses were flooded and crops damaged. According to KKSSR Ramachandran, Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management, Kayalpattinam locality in Thoothukudi received 94.6 cm of rainfall while Tiruchendur recorded 68.9 cm, Srivaikundam 62.1 cm, and Kovilpatti 52.5 cm.
Watch: Southern Tamil Nadu rains - a very very rare event - TN Weatherman Pradeep John