The flood waters are slowly receding, leaving behind a seemingly insurmountable challenge: some 1 lakh people are out of their homes and living in 136 government-run relief camps in Chennai. Several parts of the city remain cut off due to poor connectivity.
The task before the state government now is to clean up after the worst flood in 100 years, check the spread of disease and make sure those out of homes have easy access to food and medicine.
Every day, tonnes of relief materials pour into Chennai via road and rail. These are brought to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Here, some 10 officers and over 1,000 volunteers, including government secretaries, help segregate and despatch materials based on inputs from police. But the scale of the disaster and the amount of relief pouring in has overwhelmed the officers.
Volunteer groups have also been arriving in the city and hiring warehouses and hotel spaces, where the aid is dumped. Without a proper distribution network, much of the aid materials is piling up.
A senior UN expert told The Indian Express that the emergency response to relief involves forming cluster groups. “Chennai needs at least 12 clusters cutting across themes — food, shelter, sanitation, health, education, communication, transportation and logistics,” he said.
There are also complaints that the government is not visible enough. The last press conference the government held was five days ago.
Experts said the need of the hour was a ‘Rapid Needs Assessment’ group, comprising technical experts sourced from the health department, IITs, universities and other central agencies.
Meanwhile, a group of volunteers have launched an online drive to compile the ongoing relief data for information sharing among all relief workers. The website, http://www.restorechennai.in, which is in the final stage of completion, would be able to start coordinating relief works within a day or two.