WITH MOST of the rescue work over on Saturday, the sixth day since the heavy rains hit Chennai and northern districts, the focus has now shifted to relief operations.
According to the state police, almost 90 per cent rescue operations have been completed and thousands of food packets have been distributed at the various shelters and flooded areas.
The Chennai international airport also restored technical flight operations on Saturday. “Since the basement of the airport and aircraft bays remain waterlogged, passenger flight operations couldn’t be initiated immediately,” said the office of the Chennai airport director.
An official of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board said almost 50 per cent of power supply had been restored in the city by Saturday evening. State-run Aavin said milk supply had been restored. Despite damaged roads and shortage of trucks, the Indian Oil Corporation said the shortage of fuel had also been resolved.
Meanwhile, there were complaints of rescue work being hampered by “lack of coordination”. However, top government sources claimed that all “state resources and machineries” had been pressed into service.
“Tonnes of relief material, including packed food, medicines and sanitary items, have started arriving in the city. But the government is not prepared to receive them. Lack of coordination in the government is leading to a situation where some areas are getting more relief material than they need while the worst-hit areas are yet to be covered,” said a senior officer coordinating the relief work.
For instance, people in Pallikaranai and Guduvancherry areas said they got excess items, including food and clothes, while many in Saidapet and North Chennai were yet to get any relief.
The official said since there are no nodal offices in the district headquarters, those who want to send relief material from other cities don’t know where to do so. “Ideally, district collectors should be taking the initiative. But they cannot do so without a formal order from Chennai,” he said.
However, top sources in the government said all nodal offices would be ready by Sunday or Monday. “Right now we have a huge supply, received from the Centre, Army and Navy, and they being segregated at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Management of supplies is also very important. We cannot get things dumped in Chennai. We may not be accepting medicines, milk and certain other items as we already have excess stock. Meanwhile, we may take biscuits or water. We are distributing items using all state resources and machineries. Until yesterday, our focus was on rescue operations. We shifted focus to relief work from today,” said a top official involved in relief operations.
At the Guduvancherry relief camp south of Chennai, people said they needed doctors and nurses. “Had the government run this relief operation with a proper system, we would have been able to provide them better sanitation and hygienic environment as there is no dearth of shelters,” said S Vinayak, an IT professional volunteering in South Chennai.