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Chennai limps back to normal, anger grows at lack of relief


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the floods dues to heavy rains in Tamil Nadu. An ex-gratia relief of Rs 50,000 has also been sanctioned for those who were seriously injured in the floods.

With rain relenting on Saturday, focus shifted from rescue operations to relief work, with food packets being distributed by choppers to those stranded. Flood waters began receding from many areas, but an aerial survey showed around 40% of Chennai was still water-logged. If the weather department's prediction of light rain in Chennai over the next 24 hours holds, rescue and relief efforts will gain speed.

The Chennai airport was partially operational on Saturday. Domestic passenger flight operations at the facility will begin from 6am on Sunday, the Airports Authority of India announced. Train services also improved, with long-distance trains out of Chennai likely to being on Sunday.

However, a shortage of drinking water and other essentials continued. In many areas, power was yet to be restored, leading to frustration among the citizens. An enraged group of people from Kotturpuram held a demonstration demanding answers from the electricity board as to why they did not have electricity when just a few hundred metres away, Gandhi Nagar had power.

More than 11 lakh people have been evacuated to safer places and thousands have been housed in relief camps across the city and adjoining districts. Four districts of Tamil Nadu – Chennai, Kancheepuram, Thiriuvallur and Cuddalore – and Puducherry were battered by rain over the past fortnight. Rain related deaths have totalled 325 so far and there is a fear that it could rise as rescue teams are finding bodies from inside houses submerged in water.

In Chennai, Kodambakkam was complaining of stagnant sewage water not being attended to by the authorities. “We want this slush to be pumped out," a resident said.

South Chennai, a rescuer said, was relatively worse affected after completing an aerial survey. Complaints of negligence and government apathy continued to pour in from different pockets. “No official agency brought us any food or drinking water. Only the neighbours brought us some biscuits, drinking water," an angry resident of MGR Nagar in Ramapuram in Thiruvallur told a television news channel.

People in many localities hired pumps to drain out stagnant water. On the relief front, government efforts were supplemented by thousands of volunteers of NGOs and well-meaning individuals flooding Chennai with food packets, drinking water, clothes, blankets, and medicines. The government, meanwhile, began preparations to meet the challenge of spreading diseases after the rain water recedes.

The state government said 200 special medical camps became operational on Saturday. More than 210 camps have already been functioning. On Friday, 92 mobile medical teams were deployed all over Chennai to tend to the needy.

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