In the aftermath of Cyclone Michaung’s assault on India’s southern coast, the city of Chennai faced widespread flooding on Wednesday, compelling rescuers to employ boats to reach stranded individuals in their inundated homes. The cyclone, accompanied by heavy rain and powerful winds, uprooted trees, and inflicted damage on roads, resulting in the loss of an estimated 13 lives, particularly in the manufacturing hub of Tamil Nadu. The flooding, triggered by torrential rains preceding the cyclone’s landfall in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday afternoon, prompted rescuers to utilize inflatable rafts and ropes for evacuations in Chennai, a city with a population exceeding 6 million, renowned for its status as a major automobile and technology manufacturing center.
As Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner Dr. J. Radhakrishnan highlighted, “There are pockets of low lying areas.” The efforts of rescue workers were vividly captured by local media, showcasing their determination as they waded through waist-deep water and engaged in the retrieval of stranded individuals. Additionally, air force helicopters played a crucial role by airdropping food rations to those marooned in flooded homes.
The impact of the deluge extended beyond immediate human consequences, affecting industrial operations. Notably, Taiwan’s Foxconn and Pegatron had temporarily halted Apple iPhone production at their Chennai facilities due to the rains, with Foxconn resuming operations on Tuesday.
In the state of Andhra Pradesh, which bore the brunt of Cyclone Michaung, damage was relatively contained, primarily manifesting as road impairments and uprooted trees from the force of crashing waves along the coast. This calamity evoked memories of a devastating flood eight years prior, claiming around 290 lives, raising questions among residents about the city’s infrastructure resilience in the face of extreme weather events.
State Chief Minister M K Stalin expressed concern by writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking 50.6 billion rupees ($607.01 million) for the extensive damage. However, civil engineer and geo-analytics expert Raj Bhagat P emphasized that even with improved stormwater drainage systems in the city, preventing flooding in the face of very heavy and extremely heavy rains would have remained a challenge.
Bhagat P noted, “This solution would have helped a lot in moderate and heavy rainfall, but not in very heavy and extremely heavy rains.” Despite these challenges, the spirit of resilience prevailed as rescue efforts persisted amidst the adversity, emphasizing the need for both short-term relief and long-term infrastructure improvements to fortify Chennai against the unpredictable forces of nature.