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India's southern city of Chennai grapples with deadly flood aftermath
by Staff Writers
Chennai, India (AFP) Dec 5, 2015

Top India politician faces criticism over deadly floods
Chennai, India (AFP) Dec 6, 2015 - A powerful Indian politician was ridiculed on Sunday over her role in deadly floods that have swept through her southern Tamil Nadu state, as frustration mounts over the disaster.

Thousands of residents have been rescued in Tamil Nadu since record rains last week worsened flooding that has claimed nearly 300 lives across the state since November 9.

The international airport in the state capital Chennai reopened on Sunday days after most of the city of more than four million was left underwater, knocking out power and phone networks.

Soldiers and other emergency workers who poured into the state have now switched to rushing food, clean drinking water and medical supplies to hard-hit residents.

But longtime Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram faced criticism for attempting to politicise the floods after a billboard appeared of her holding up a baby to save it from the floodwaters.

The billboard, apparently erected by a party legislator in Chennai and depicting a scene from a local blockbuster movie, sparked a storm on social media.

Many took to Twitter to brand Jayalalithaa "shameless" and the poster the "Amma of all self-promotions".

Local media also reported that Jayalalithaa's party workers were holding up relief supplies so they could slap on pictures of the former movie star known as "Amma" or "Mother" by her legions of supporters.

Her party denied the claims, accusing political rivals of spreading rumours to "defame the party and our honourable chief minister".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government faced mockery on social media on Friday for tweeting an apparently doctored photo of him surveying the flood-hit state.

The photo showed him looking out the window of a helicopter. The view was barely visible, but what appeared to be the same image was later tweeted sharp and clearly showed flooding.

Anger and frustration is mounting among some residents who accuse local authorities of failing to work swiftly to help those affected.

V. Padmavathy said she had been stuck on the first floor of her home for days after waist-deep water swept through her north Chennai neighbourhood.

"None of the politicians or volunteers have approached us for the past couple of days. Many of us stayed indoors and starved," the mother of two told AFP.

Residents in India's southern Tamil Nadu state Saturday were grappling with the aftermath of devastating floods as authorities stepped up relief work following the worst deluge in decades that killed over 250 people.

Thousands of people in Chennai took to the mud-filled streets to buy essentials as authorities worked to restore communication and road networks after Tuesday's record rains worsened weeks of flooding, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents marooned in the state capital.

Residents jostled at grocery stores, petrol stations and cash machines, with the city reeling under a severe shortage of supplies, including drinking water, after the rains finally stopped on Thursday.

"I had to wait almost three hours at the petrol station with more than 200 people trying to get fuel," local resident V Prabhakaran told AFP, adding filling stations have started rationing petrol.

Mobile communication services were badly hit by damage to power infrastructure and a shortage of fuel. The authorities said shortages of essential goods will start to ease as road and rail links are restored and dozens of special trains were running to bring in relief material.

Chennai's international airport was opened for relief flights, four days after planes and the runway were submerged. Officials hope commercial services will resume Sunday.

Hundreds of flood-hit cars and motorcycles remained piled up in the streets of Chennai, which were coated with a thick layer of mud.

Thousands of people were rescued earlier in the week in a massive operation by the Indian army and disaster management teams. Residents were plucked from the rooftops of their marooned homes by helicopters and boats following the devastating floods which officials said were caused by the worst rains in a century.

Rekha Nambiar, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who is leading a relief team of more than 1,800 men in the state, said crews were carrying out relief work after flood waters started receding, with the focus on potable water.

"Rescue work is over. We are focused on relief now. We are trying to shift men and machinery to provide drinking water in the affected areas," Nambiar told AFP.

She said teams were cleaning up residential areas to avoid a disease outbreak as authorities distributed water purifying chlorine tablets.

"Right now people are in dire need of food, water and sanitation," she said.

Forecasters expect dry weather next week, ending a long spell of torrential rain.

Experts blamed poor urban planning for the devastation in India's fourth-largest city, home to nearly 4.6 million people, which has grown rapidly in the last few decades to become a major IT and automobile hub.

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Previous Report
India deploys troops in south as deadly floods worsen
Chennai, India (AFP) Dec 2, 2015
India on Wednesday deployed troops to Tamil Nadu and closed the main airport there after heavy rains worsened weeks of flooding that has killed nearly 200 people in the southern coastal state. Thousands of rescuers carrying diving equipment, inflatable boats and medical equipment were battling to evacuate victims across the flooded state, officials said. Thousands of passengers left stra ... read more

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