The waters have receded as of now, and people are slowly attempting to return to what is left of their homes in most areas of Chennai. If the skies hold, and further flooding does not occur, then it may be safely assumed that the city has reached the 'post-impact' phase of the disaster. In a flood scenario like this, a key characteristic of this phase is the looming spectre of epidemics and the larger question of sustaining relief and rehabilitation work.
Piles of garbage have been swept up by the flood waters, sewage has entered the homes and where the flood waters have not yet receded, there is an unbearable stench. In some areas, people have spotted carcasses floating by, and rodents and snakes run riot in abandoned homes. The situation is ripe for an epidemic, if the State is not prepared, public health experts have warned.
As it is, families are trying to cope with the stress of displacement, and in some cases, with the injuries caused during the floods. A number of people suffered falls, bites, allergies, skin ailments, and electrocution. The poor hygiene and sanitation situation comes as an extra challenge at this stage, even as distribution of relief remains an issue that needs to be addressed simultaneously.
“So far, we have no large-scale incidence of fever and diarrhoea, two conditions that we are expecting at this stage," explains a senior health department official, not ruling out isolated bursts of disease because of contamination of local water sources. The proven protocol in such circumstances is a combination of surveillance and prevention activities, watching out for the outbreak of diseases and ensuring that the factors that contribute to it are removed.