The deceptive calm of Kayalpattinam's coastal facade hides a persistent crisis. Despite its appearance of normalcy, the town, which submerged under 95 cm of rain in 24 hours (17-18 December), is struggling to survive. While the main road and beach area stand seemingly untouched, many lanes within conceal a submerged reality. Only a few large houses remain without water inside, becoming the refuge for the displaced. Residents, compelled to sleep in relatives’ houses or relief camps, return daily to battle waters inside their homes, revealing a relentless struggle in the face of an unprecedented flood.
Fathima, a resident of Parimar Theru in Kayalpattinam, is worried about her father, a kidney patient, who needs to undergo weekly dialysis. Though sufficient food is being provided, her father has been struggling without access to electricity, making her task of taking care of him that much more difficult.
Another resident, Khader, whose legs are fractured, pleads for assistance. Around him is water that reaches his hip level. “My legs are fractured. How can I walk in these waters that are at my hip level? Somebody has to carry me to the hospital. It's been five days. Why is the water still stagnant?"
Residents trapped in flooded areas, including Uchimahali Koil Theru, express gratitude for the free food but lament the devastation of their homes. Nasiya articulates the collective anguish: "We have lost all our things. Not even a pair of clothes remain and all electronics are gone. If the water remains inside, our houses will collapse. The walls have cracks already." The community faces a dual struggle, battling the physical challenges of flooding and the emotional toll of witnessing their homes deteriorate.
In the aftermath of flooding, residents in Kayalpattinam employ various strategies to cope with the challenging conditions. Some endure the inundated houses on cots, others seek refuge with relatives, returning daily to clean while some others find shelter in relief centres.
Shahida, a resident of Uchimahali Koil, shares the frustration of battling recurring floods: "Every day, I would come home, clean the house, drain the water by using a mug for hours. But within a few hours again, it fills with water. There are no efforts taken to pump out the stagnant water."
The road in Parimar Theru remains submerged, obstructed on one side, requiring clearance with a JCB excavator. Sayed, a volunteer in the region, reveals the shortage of resources: "When I asked the authorities, they said there was only one JCB for the municipality, and they are using it somewhere else."
Residents allege that despite authorities witnessing their plight, their pleas go unheard, underscoring the critical need for immediate attention and assistance.
The districts of Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, and Kanniyakumari have received heavy rains since December 17, resulting in flooding in many areas. Around 160 relief centres have been established, according to the TN government and around 17,000 people are said to have sought refuge in the centres. Three people have died in Thoothukudi district due to the floods.