Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Losses from Chennai’s rains of the century pegged at Rs15,000 crore

Prime Minister Narendra Modi surveys rain-affected regions of Tamil Nadu, announces Rs1,000 crore immediate relief

Chennai: Flooding caused by the heaviest rainfall to lash Chennai in a century is likely to have caused damage worth 15,000 crore, a business lobby group said on Thursday, as factories in the city’s suburbs halted production and the airport stayed shut.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who surveyed the rain-battered city and other areas, announced 1,000 crore in immediate relief.

Emerging from a meeting with state chief minister J. Jayalalithaa and governor K. Rosaiah, Modi told reporters that the money released is in addition to the 940 crore released earlier.

“I have seen the damage and misery caused by the extremely heavy rainfall. The government of India stands by the people of Tamil Nadu in their hour of need," Modi said after conducting an aerial survey of Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur on Thursday.

The armed forces evacuated over 2,000 residents stranded in Tamil Nadu and its capital Chennai on Thursday as the death toll from the flooding rose to 269.

Although the state received some respite from incessant rain on Thursday, weather forecasters have predicted more rain over the next 48 hours, prompting the army to speed up relief and rescue operations.

“The city has come to a virtual standstill and is in the grip of fear and panic," industry lobby group Assocham, which estimated the loss caused by the floods at 15,000 crore, said in a statement.

Chennai’s suburbs host the local factories of auto makers including Hyundai Motor Co., Ford Motor Co., BMW AG and Renault SA. Work has come to a standstill at the factories. Eicher Motors Ltd, which makes the Royal Enfield motorcycles, said that it closed its two plants near the city and lost about 9% of its output in November.

The Tamil Nadu state administration has advised manufacturers to keep their operations shut till 7 December, said BMW’s local unit said.

Some relief came on Thursday from the weather department, which downgraded an earlier forecast for heavy rainfall to “light to moderate" for the next few days.

A flooded Chennai airport. Photo: AP
A flooded Chennai airport. Photo: AP

When asked if the worst was over, L.S. Rathore, director general of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), told reporters: “Hopefully. We have to be watchful for the next 48 hours."

Chennai saw a record 1,218.6 mm of precipitation in November, three times more than normal, according to private forecaster Skymet.

The northeast monsoon typically sets in between October and December over India’s east coast, where Chennai is located.

Mennwhile, Indian Air Force also joined relief operations in Tamil Nadu, rescuing hundreds of passengers stranded at the local airport, which is expected to be shut at least until 6 December.

As many as 34 aircraft, including those of the budget carriers Indigo and SpiceJet, were stuck at the Chennai airport. Of those, at least five each belonged to Jet Airways Ltd and state-owned Air India Ltd, according to flight-tracking website FlightRadar24. IndiGo said it will operate additional flights from nearby Bengaluru to accommodate passengers leaving Chennai by road.

Limited commercial flight operations are likely to start on Friday from the Rajali naval air station at nearby Arakkonam, the civil aviation ministry said late Thursday.

Passengers, who were rescued from Chennai, at Palam airport in Delhi on Thursday. Photo:
Passengers, who were rescued from Chennai, at Palam airport in Delhi on Thursday. Photo:

Airlines operating from cities near Chennai raised fares as stranded passengers are desperately seeking to catch flights from nearby cities. “Fares from other airports, namely Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram and Coimbatore, have gone up by more than 60% as there is a huge rush for people wanting to exit Tamil Nadu due to the flood situation," said John Nair, head of business travel at travel firm Cox and Kings Ltd.

Plane tickets that used to be priced at 4,000-6,000 are costing as much as 9,000 because of the rush of passengers from Chennai, according to Reji Philip, who runs Cosmos Agencies.

Some information technology companies, as part of their business continuity plan, shifted some of their employees who handle critical projects to other locations.

Hewlett-Packard Global Soft Pvt. Ltd, Accenture India, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Cognizant Technology Solutions and others have also been shut since Tuesday.

Small and medium companies, automobile, engineering, information technology (IT) and tourism are among the sectors which are the worst-affected, Assocham said in its statement.

Flooded streets in Chennai. Photo: Reuters
Flooded streets in Chennai. Photo: Reuters

Meanwhile, soldiers set up 25 temporary shelters and community kitchens and installed portable toilets. “We will have to resurrect an entire city," said Abhijit Shaw, an army officer who was setting up a makeshift maternity ward in a government building.

Floods cut off more than three million people from basic services and hampered rescue efforts by the army, which has so far evacuated 18,000 people from rooftops and outlying villages.

Experts said haphazard construction, faulty drainage and a build-up of garbage had contributed to the disaster.

“Chennai is stinking and it is shocking to see how it has collapsed in the last 48 hours," said Anant Raghav, 56, a professor at the University of Madras.

More than 5,000 houses were under water with many people still trapped on rooftops, while others crowded in relief camps.

Relief efforts were proving to be challenging as some roads have been washed away and telephone networks were down, home minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament on Thursday.

About 30 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams (1014 personnel) with 110 boats and 13 Army columns (of 806 personnel) have been deployed for rescue and relief operations in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Singh said. Central government forces rescued 40,432 people by Thursday afternoon.

Chennai city authorities were deploying bulldozers and bags of concrete to repair collapsed roads and bridges.

Rail services to Chennai were also halted, and the navy has deployed fishing boats to evacuate people from the worst-hit suburbs to temples, schools and wedding halls.

Yogendra Kalavalapalli in Hyderabad, P.R. Sanjai in Mumbai, Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this story.

Close