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'Mobilizing vehicles to evacuate stranded passengers, Chopper will airdrop food'

Reasoning that supply of food and water to all the stranded passengers remained their top priority now, the SR release said that food has been provided to 100 passengers at the station by local people

Mobilizing vehicles to evacuate stranded passengers, Chopper will airdrop food

The heavily eroded railway track hanging dangerously near Srivaikuntam station on Monday.

CHENNAI: As cries for help continued to be heard from the 500 stranded passengers on board Chendur Express in Srivaikuntam station, Southern Railway (SR) on Monday announced that the department would make efforts to evacuate passengers from Srivaikuntam station to the nearest railway station on Tuesday morning.

A release issued by Southern Railway (SR) said that the railway administration is mobilizing adequate road vehicles for evacuating passengers Tuesday morning to the nearest railway station from where they will be taken by a convenient special train to Chennai.

"Every attempt is being made by Railways and State Government to access Srivaikuntam Railway Station with food, water and temporary lighting arrangements, " the release added.

Claiming that SR has reached out to both NDRF and State government officials to extend maximum assistance in evacuation of this passengers, a highly placed SR officer, responding to the demand for food from the stranded passengers, told DT Next that a helicopter carrying two tonnes of relief materials left Sulur air base near Coimbatore around 4.40pm Monday, but it could not make the drop due to adverse weather conditions, poor light and it has now moved to Madurai. "The helicopter will make its drop tomorrow morning at daybreak, " the officer added.

Reasoning that supply of food and water to all the stranded passengers remained their top priority now, the SR release said that food has been provided to 100 passengers at the station by local people.

According to the railway release, train no 20606 Tiruchendur – Chennai Egmore Chendur Express, which left Tiruchendur at 20:25 hours of December 17 was terminated at Srivaikuntam station, 33 kms from the Tiruchendur Station, at 21.19 hours with around 800 passengers on board.

At 01.30 hrs on December 18, with the assistance of the district administration around 300 stranded passengers from the station were shifted to nearby government school using four state transport buses and two minivans for transport.

Further transportation of 500 stranded passengers was not possible due to overflowing of bridge en-route and NDRF team from Thoothukudi was moved by road to Srivaikutam station, but they have been held up en-route due to heavy flooding and breaching of roads.

Damage to rail infra heavy, restoration may take some time

Immediate restoration of normal train services to rain-ravaged Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli might be delayed, unlike Chennai where Central and Egmore terminuses became operational as soon as water receded during Cyclone Michaung. The extent of damages caused to the railway infrastructure suggest that the areas might require extensive repair works.

An official release issued by the Southern Railway (SR) on Monday said that earth slip occurred on the approach bank of a bridge and ballast also got washed away in the section between Talaiyuthu and Gangaikondan (7.71 km). While the overflowing Nainarkulam Tank has flooded the Tirunelveli Station yard, water level has risen above one meter in the Thoothukudi station yard due to abnormal rainfall.

In the section between Tattapparai and Milavittan (7.47 km), water has gone above danger level across nine bridges. The ballast has been completely washed away in the section between Srivaikuntam and Seydunganallur (12.16 km) due to unprecedented rainfall ranging from 670 mm to 932 mm in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi in the 24 hours from 8.30 am on December 17.

Restoration works

The engineering wing of the Railways, in coordination with other departments, is moving all the materials required for restoration and it would keep them in readiness for early restoration of traffic in the above affected sections as soon as the rainfall reduces and water level recedes, the release added.

Restoration of traffic in Talaiyuthu and Gangaikondan of Tirunelveli – Madurai main line is expected to be over by Tuesday evening. The restoration work in the branch lines of Tiruchendur and Tirunelveli, Maniyachchi and Thoothukudi would resume after receding of water and complete assessment.

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