Chennai is bracing for the worst. The weather office sounded a warning on Wednesday that the city could witness heavy to very heavy rainfall from December 2 onwards as a depression over the Bay of Bengal is likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm and cross the north Tamil Nadu coast. Called ‘Nada’, the cyclonic storm is likely to continue to move west-northwestwards and intensify during the next 12 hours. It is very likely to cross north Tamil Nadu coast between Vedaranyam and Chennai close to Cuddalore by early hours of December 2.
The weather office further said the depression over southeast Bay of Bengal moved west-northwestwards and intensified into a deep depression and lay centred about 830 km of southeast Chennai, 780 km east-southeast of Puducherry and 490 km east-southeast of Trincomalee in Sri Lanka. They have also urged fishermen to avoid the sea and return immediately. “Those out in the sea were advised to return immediately. In the next 24 hours in Tamil Nadu beginning 0830 hrs today, rains will commence along coastal parts and gradually move to inner districts,” said S Balachandran, Director, Area Cyclone Warning Centre.
Last year’s catastrophic floods in Chennai, which claimed around 270 lives, was a wake-up call for authorities as they struggled to contain the situation. The floods worsened due to an exceptionally strong El Niño, along with choking of stormwater in the city, creating a national emergency prompting the NDRF, Indian Army, Navy and other security forces to carry out rescue and relief operations. While CM Jayalalithaa had said the monsoon was ‘inevitable’, the fact remains that the filling of lowlands and other exits for water played a major role in the escalation of the crisis.
The drains, some of which were constructed over the past decade, have repeatedly proved to be ineffective. If the past is any indicator, the state authorities would do well to prepare in advance and take corrective measure to plug the gaps in the city’s multi-crore drainage projects.