NDTV Ground Report: In Flood-Hit Thoothukudi, Entire Village Washed Away

Floods in Tamil Nadu‘s Thoothukudi – which received 950 mm, nearly a metre, of rainfall between Sunday and Money – literally washed away villages, killing six persons and leaving tens of thousands marooned on rooftops, surviving on air-dropped food packets and awaiting rescue.

NDTV trekked to one village – the devastated Sri Parangusanallur in the Srivaikuntam taluk that had remained cut-off till late Wednesday. Though floodwaters surrounding the village had receded, the road to Sri Parangusanallur had caved in, meaning no car or motor vehicle could reach the people.

On Thursday work was underway to level the area to facilitate vehicular movement. 

We walked, although waded would be a better description, the quarter-kilometre to the village and, along the way, we saw destroyed huts with pieces of the tin-roofed structures strewn all around.

When we reached the village, the scale of devastation resembled the aftermath of an earthquake.

Villages literally washed away around Srivaikuntam. Houses collapsed, belongings washed away. Many are homeless and without a change of clothing. pic.twitter.com/Ub4wcMrz13

— J Sam Daniel Stalin (@jsamdaniel) December 21, 2023

One resident, Ayyammal, was staring helplessly at what was left of her home, which had been washed away thanks to the nearby Thamirabarani River that overflowed past midnight Sunday. “My clothes and vessels have gone. All my household appliances, like fans, grinder, cooker, have gone,” she said,

“I have no home,” she lamented to NDTV.

READ | One Dead In Tamil Nadu Rain Fury, Flights, Trains Hit, Schools Shut

Not far away, close to a channel that too had overflowed, we saw Sarojini, whose family had lost their ancestral home. The tallest house in the village had turned to rubble after nearly 100cm of rain.

“We have lost everything… everything was washed into the sea,” she told NDTV.

Send clothes to Tuticorin. Poor people say they lost everythingin floods including clothing. Many women are in tears saying they have no change of clothing. pic.twitter.com/idQFvgo7NH

— J Sam Daniel Stalin (@jsamdaniel) December 20, 2023

Sarojini and her family had escaped just moments before the house collapsed.

NDTV then met Balakrishnan, a 72-year-old farmer, rooting around the debris of his destroyed home, trying to see if he could salvage anything. The old mobile phone in his hand is his only connection to the outside world, and his wife is too emotional to talk to us.

READ | 3 Dead in Tamil Nadu Rain Fury, Army, Air Force Join Rescue, Relief Op

“My time (in this world) is over, I think. I can’t generate any income… how do I make up these losses?”

The tragic stories would not stop. As we moved further into the village, we met Kanniyammal, a widow who was drying a few kilograms of wet raw rice. The floods had completely destroyed her one-room home and buried it under a thick layer of slush. She has no money and little else apart from the clothes on her back. “My house may fall any time. I need a gas stove… have lost all.”

READ | Video: Highway In Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi Flooded, More Rain Predicted

A week after the floods the Thamirabarani has calmed down.

But affected communities could take a lifetime to recover from the havoc it caused. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin wants the centre to declare the floods, including those which ravaged Chennai this month, a national disaster, to help secure funds for compensation and rebuilding.

READ | MK Stalin Seeks Central Funds For Flood-Hit Tamil Nadu, BJP Takes Jab

Mr Stalin’s government has announced Rs 6,000 for ration card-holders in Thoothukudi and other severely-affected areas, while those in Tenkasi and Kanniyakumari district will get Rs 1,000.

The crisis also underscores the weather department’s apparent inability to accurately forecast such mind-boggling rainfall. Visiting the flood-affected districts on Thursday, Mr Stalin said, “Only on December 17 (did) the Met Department) alert ‘extremely heavy rainfall’ for the 17th and 18th.”

Earlier today, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hit back in the inevitable political blame-game, telling reporters the department in Chennai had advanced equipment and forecast extremely heavy rainfall as early as December 12 and 13. “What steps did the Tamil Nadu government take?”

In response, DMK spokesperson A Saravanan said, “If Nirmala spoke as a BJP politician, she has taken information from their ‘WhatsApp University’. If she spoke as a Minister, she has no grip on facts.”

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