After a brief 48-hour respite, rains pounded the south Indian city of Chennai and other parts of the state of Tamil Nadu again on Wednesday (9), even as chief minister J Jayalalithaa urged Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to declare the floods a national calamity.
Nearly 300 people died across the state since it was hit by torrential rains on December 1 that left large sections of the city under up to 8ft (2.5m) of water, and trapped people on rooftops with no communication.
Although Chennai’s air and train services resumed on Monday (7), more than half of the city was still flooded. As people in flood-ravaged Chennai, Cuddalore and Thanjavur began picking up pieces of their lives after the unprecedented deluge, rains revisited the state and more wet weather has been forecast.
“Rain or thundershowers would occur at many places over interior Tamil Nadu and at a few coastal places and Puducherry,” a Meteorological Department official said.
In Cuddalore, one of the worst-hit by floods, over 100,000 people were still stuck in 183 relief camps.
Thousands of sanitation and conservancy workers continued to battle the odds to remove mounds of stinking garbage littering the streets and public spaces to prevent outbreak of epidemics. Air and rail services have, however, resumed, bringing some relief.
In a letter to Modi, Jayalalithaa demanded that the state floods be declared a national calamity and proposed steps for alleviating the misery of those hit by the deluge. She suggested soft loans, speeding up settlement of insurance claims and a moratorium by banks on collecting loan repayments.
Six out of seven power stations in Chennai that were flooded were functioning, but one was accessible only by boat and would require time before starting up again, state officials said.
Telecoms remained a problem with cell towers damaged, the federal government said in a statement, though some communications had been restored in recent days.
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.
However, 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 reporters.
Residents said last weekend the government was too slow to respond to the havoc wrought by the heaviest rains in a century. They claimed city authorities gave no warning that they were going to open overflowing reservoirs into the Adyar river, which led to a sharp rise in water levels.
In Jafferkjanpet and Vellachery, two of Chennai’s worst-affected areas, some said the authorities had only just showed up with food packets.
“We have had no power, no milk for the children,” said MA Sheikh, accusing the government and media of giving a false picture of the relief effort. When Modi visited the city last week, he announced Rs10 million (£100,000) of extra assistance for relief operations.
Meanwhile, chief minister Jayalalithaa 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 her 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”.
Modi’s government also faced mockery on social media last week for tweeting an apparently doctored photograph of him surveying the flood-hit state.
The image showed him looking out the window of a helicopter. The view was barely visible, but what appeared to be the same picture was later tweeted sharp and clearly showed flooding.