Chennai floods: With no stairs to climb to roof, rising water swallowed ex-Army officer, wife

Neighbours allege water was released in Adyar river without warning, resulting in flooding.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Published: December 9, 2015 12:20 am
chennai floods, chennai news, floods in chennai, chennai flood, chennai rains, chennai live, chennai updates, tamil nadu rains, tamil nadu news, chennai flood relief, latest news, india news At Kotturpuram, a relief worker pacifies people gathered around the vehicle for bed mats. In several parts of the city, relief workers faced violence from desperate people who have excess food supplies but have lost all belongings. (Source: Arun Janardhanan)

It was just a matter of 13 hours. On December 1 night, a retired Lieutenant Colonel was taking a walk in his neighbourhood when he noticed the Adyar river rising. By next morning, the water had risen up to their terrace and he had drowned in his home.

The last hours of retired Lt Col G Venkatesan, 72, and his wife Geetha were witnessed by their neighbours S Rajagopalan and S P Sanjay, who themselves struggled to survive the deluge in Chennai last week.

Around 8 pm on December 1, Venkatesan — who stayed in a single-storey house in Ekkatuthangal — was out walking with his neighbour Brigadier Rajagopalan and wife. This was two weeks after heavy rain had wreaked havoc in the city, and dark clouds had returned, portending fresh showers. “Like every year, we saw people on the river bank being evacuated. We didn’t expect our street would get flooded,” Rajagopalan said.

However, two hours later, Rajagopalan spotted water entering his car shed. “At 2 am, I woke up and saw the house was flooded up to knee-level,” he said. He and his wife went up to the terrace.

In the opposite house, Venkatesan was still not worried. Sanjay, a businessman who lives next door, recalled that Venkatesan “was talking loudly on the phone around midnight”.

Around 4.30 am, Sanjay woke up to see his ground floor submerged. “I ran up to the terrace and called Venkatesan. The water had reached halfway up his window.” Sanjay called the Army exchange and demanded immediate rescue of the couple. He was told that a team was on its way. “As the water level rose, Venkatesan stood up on the dining table. Then he placed a chair on it and climbed up. There was no staircase in his house. It could have saved them,” he said.

By 9 am next day, the water had reached the terrace, claiming the couple. The families of Sanjay and Rajagopalan were rescued on December 3 morning. The bodies of Venkatesan and wife were taken out later in the day.

“The state simply cut power and released water and saw people drown. What did they do in the days before the rain?,” Sanjay said.

Rajagopalan said there was no flood warning when the government released 35,000 cusecs of water in the Adyar. “They should have increased the release of water scientifically instead of waiting for the last moment,” he said. Sanjay too said there was no flood warning.

The local police, however, maintain that there were flood warnings, but many families chose to stay back.

A senior official admitted that a systematic release of water in stages would have prevented the disaster. “Reservoirs were empty before Diwali. With the huge amount of water from two major rain in November, we should have released more water after the forecast of a heavier third spell of rain,” he said.

A senior PWD official denied this. He said that the capacity of Adyar is 75,000 cusecs, and that the release on Tuesday night was moderated and reached 35,000 cusecs from 29,000 cusecs in nine hours.

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  1. J
    Jacob Mathews
    Dec 9, 2015 at 12:36 am
    Pray that the rains stop and the city gets back to normal
    1. D
      Dec 9, 2015 at 4:53 am
      The official release is 35000 but actual was 100000....
      1. D
        Dec 9, 2015 at 12:07 am
        Very sad!! If only they had moved out in time to a higher floor of their neighbor's house, perhaps they could be saved. Alas...
        1. K
          kushal kumar
          Dec 9, 2015 at 12:54 am
          This Vedic astrology writer had sought to convey , over a year past on 23rd October 2014 , two crucial spells of time for India in article - " Months of substantial concern for India in next year 2015" - published online at thesop. The second crucial spell of time identified to be November and December of 2015 was conve to be more grim , particularly for places nearby the sea. It was predicted : " Places nearby the sea may also need to take a cue. Mive floods , landslides , earthquake or epidemics or health hazards may visit. Prices of everyday essential use items are likely to shoot up to the level of high concern. Food and other crops may disappoint. Downside trend of economy may pinch one and all. Those at the helm of affairs , both in the Centre and States , may have a tougher time. There is a need to be particularly cautious on the borders because likelihood of conflict or intrusions or even war cannot be ruled out". It seems the alert implied so clearly for Chennai- Tamil Nadu and other coastal States of India may have possibly escaped attention of the concerned , being in online which is an ocean. Note :If winter comes, can spring be far behind. This astrology writer has, some days back , predicted that fury of rain may ease around 10th December to a satisfactory level while, there may be some relief in between.
          1. H
            Dec 9, 2015 at 4:47 am
            A clear case of culpable homicide against the concerned PWD officers for releasing water without adequate and effective notice
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