Marooned in Perumbakkam: Residents struggle without water, food, power for 2 days

Marooned in Perumbakkam: Residents struggle without water, food, power for 2 days

Residents from Chennai’s Perumbakkam, whom TNM spoke to on Wednesday, December 6, complained that they had been reaching out to officials for help for the last two days, but no one had turned up.

Hundreds of people waded through waist-high water, scampering and fighting with each other to find a place in a truck that could hardly fit 20 people. Several others queued up to collect water bottles and biscuit packets, while many fell into the water in the process. This was not a scene from a refugee camp of migrants but from a residential area in Chennai’s Perumbakkam region, where life has been thrown out of gear following the cyclone Michaung-induced floods.

“We cannot blame the people. These are people with ailing parents and small children, who have been living without food, water and electricity for more than two days,” Raghunandan, a resident of Embassy Residency, an apartment complex in Perumbakkam, which was severely inundated tells TNM. 

Residents, whom TNM spoke to on Wednesday, December 6, complained that they had been reaching out to officials for help for the last two days, but no one had turned up.

Volunteers came with water bottles and biscuits for residents stranded in apartment complexes in Perumbakkam.
Volunteers came with water bottles and biscuits for residents stranded in apartment complexes in Perumbakkam.

“Finally, we had to get the help of the nearby fishermen, who came with their boats to evacuate us from our inundated homes,” says Subashini, a resident of AKS Radiance, another apartment complex in Perumbakkam. They had to pay the boat people to get them rescued. “We had to do this as our last resort because we have run out of the last bit of ration we had, and without electricity and food, it was difficult for families, who had babies and old-age parents living with them,” adds Subashini. 

AKS Radiance is a four-block apartment complex with over 60 flats. However, as of December 6 morning, only 20 to 25 persons who paid for the boats had been evacuated. They have been taken to Perumbakkam church for the time being. 

Not very far from AKS Radiance is another apartment complex - Embassy Residency, where the situation is worse, given that the buildings of the apartments are at a slightly lower level, which makes it more prone to flooding and inundation. With over 1,500 apartments housing over 5,000 residents in two phases, evacuation from Embassy Residency is a major challenge. Photographs sent by residents of the apartment show the basement completely submerged.

The situation was tense for Vaibhav, also a resident of the Embassy Residency, who had to take care of his 73-year-old father, a dialysis patient. The very reason why Vaibhav, an employee of an automobile company, moved to this particular apartment complex, was to take his father for his weekly dialysis sessions at the nearby Global Hospital. However, the hospital had to shut down its operations on Monday after water entered its premises and buildings. 

“The sudden change in the climatic conditions, coupled with the power outage made it difficult for my father to sleep, which in turn increased his blood pressure and sugar levels. We were not able to take him to the hospital as they didn’t have the facility to take care of him at the moment,” says Vaibhav. He had to manage by administering injections and medicines to keep his father’s blood pressure under control. 

The basement of one of the buildings of Embassy Residency.
The basement of one of the buildings of Embassy Residency.

It was only on Wednesday morning, with the help of a tractor, which they managed with the help of residents, that they were able to shift his father to MGM Hospital in the city. “It was my company that made arrangements for my father’s dialysis at MGM Hospital. We tried reaching out to our local authorities to send some boat or rescue teams but nothing happened. It was only the local residents who came to help,” he adds. 

To make things worse, elevators of the 20-storey building stopped working on Monday morning after water entered the generator room and damaged the electrical connections. On top of it, the motor which pumped water and the Sewage treatment plant (STP), located in the basement, has also been damaged in the flooding. As a result, the flats have not had access to water for more than two days. 

“Things were so grave that many of the residents came to the basement with their buckets to collect flood water and climbed up all the way up to their homes, to take care of their emergency needs,” says Savitha, a resident of Empire Residency. 

Some of the residents tried to manage basic cooking with the little can of water they had stored but that also ran out after a day, leaving them without food or water. 


“Finally, after two days of incessant requests and pleas to the authorities, the local body sent two garbage collecting trucks to evacuate the residents. The truck can hold a maximum of 20 people and this is an apartment with over 5,000 residents,” adds Savitha. 

There was a massive struggle among the residents to get inside the trucks, which would drop them off at a supermarket, situated 1.5 kms from their apartment. The entire stretch of the road is inundated. From the supermarket, the residents have to figure out their next course of action. 

People who were tired of the ruckus of finding a space in the garbage trucks, reluctantly decided to stay back in the apartment itself, says Raghunandan. 

Meanwhile, Satya, a resident of Glo Dugar, another apartment complex in the same street as that of Embassy Residency, says that some of them managed to escape from their inundated homes with the help of motor boats arranged by one of the residents in their apartments. “No NDRF or government rescue teams came to our rescue despite repeated pleas,” he adds.

Flood-prone Perumbakkam

The irony of the Perumbakkam region is that it houses big apartments as well as one of the largest resettlement sites in Chennai. People who lived near water bodies in the city were shifted to this area to save them from floods. To make matters worse, these resettlement colonies are reportedly constructed on top of marshlands, making them all the more prone to flooding. 

This was also one of the regions in the city that were severely affected during the 2015 floods. One of the reasons for adverse flooding in the region has always been attributed to rampant urbanisation. 

In June 2022, the Tamil Nadu government inaugurated the work on flood mitigation in south Chennai at an estimated cost of Rs 165 crore, with one of the main aims of the scheme being the restoration of  Madurapakkam and Ottiyambakkam canals in Tambaram and Vandalur  taluks of Chengalpattu district. 

People spread across Chennai, especially those along the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) and residential areas in Velachery, Thiruvanmiyur and Perumbakkam, have been left stranded and isolated without any food, water and electricity for more than 48 hours. Their houses are inundated, cars submerged, mobile networks have been down for many and on top of that, several senior citizens residing in these places are suffering from health issues.

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