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Flood reduces Thoothukudi residents to ‘refugees’

Stranded Minister Anitha Radhakrishnan rescued after 3 days; Central team arrives to assess damage.

Flood reduces Thoothukudi residents to ‘refugees’

A portion of the Thoothukudi-Tirunelveli 4-lane national highway was washed away, paralyzing vehicular traffic along the busy road.

THOOTHUKUDI: Devastated by the unprecedented rainfall and floods that ruined their homes, assets, and livelihood, lakhs of people in Thoothukudi, the worst affected among the southern districts, have been reduced to being refugees, who are dependent on the government and Good Samaritans even for their next meal.

Even as they are worried about the immediate future, farmers, traders, cattle breeders, and others are equally despondent about the future of their families, as the catastrophic floods left little in its wake.

Speaking to DT Next, S Ganesan, a farmer from Ayanbommiahpuram near Vilathikulam rued how one spell of torrential rain turned his livelihood upside down.

“My family is in deep distress, not knowing what to do next. No matter how much relief amount the government gives, it is arduous to recover our lost livelihood,” he said.

At the district, which supplies 30 per cent of India’s total salt requirement, the State’s top producer of pearl millet, and which has extensive paddy, banana and cotton fields, one field is now indistinguishable from the other, blanketed by the thick sheet of floodwater.

Kumaravelan from Pazhaya Kayal village in Srivaikundam, a banana farmer who was hoping for a good harvest, is distraught by the sight of the once-healthy shoots from seedlings now rotting. “I had taken money from usury men, but now there is no way to repay it,” he said.

In many areas like Pulva Vazhi village located on Thoothukudi-Tiruchendur road, the residents are yet to come out of the shock of waking up with water inside their homes and the grief of losing all their belongings.

“The entire house was flooded and all the things and clothes were washed away. Our goats, cows, and dogs died before our eyes. More than 500 families in our village are on the road like refugees, begging for our next meal,” said J Suganya, a homemaker.

The disaster has also come as a great leveller, with even Anitha R Radhakrishnan, Minister and party’s influential leader from the district whom Chief Minister MK Stalin had deputed to speed up rescue and relief efforts in Thoothukudi, getting trapped in flood for three days and having to be rescued by disaster response personnel. Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi, too, was rescued from the flood a day ago.

Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial central team arrived here on Wednesday to assess the damage caused by unprecedented flooding and rainfall in the four southern districts of Tamil Nadu over the last two days.

Trading activities paralysed, huge losses feared

“As the mobile phone network is still not fully stable and traffic remains cut off, it is difficult to communicate with other traders in the district to know the situation. The extent of the damage will be known only after the flood waters recede,” he said.

Speaking to DT Next, MTC Managing Director Alby John Varghese, who has been posted as monitoring officer to Thoothukudi suburban areas, said the entire government machinery is trying hard to gain access to areas that remain isolated even now, by Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

“We are taking steps to repair the Thoothukudi-Tirunelveli road to some extent and enable vehicle movement. The assessment of loss can be done only after the floodwaters recede from the villages around Thoothukudi,” he said.

Ramakrishna N
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