Efforts on to rescue 500 stranded train passengers in Tamil Nadu amid floods

Houses inundated in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Manorama

Madurai: At least four persons were killed in the relentless torrents of rains that lashed parts of southern Tamil Nadu on Monday. The districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, and Tenkasi have been under a heavy spell of showers for the past couple of days. The low-lying areas of Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli were inundated, making difficult the lives of hundreds of residents. Taking serious note of the situation, Chief Minister MK Stalin tasked the ministers of his cabinet to coordinate the relief and rescue operations in the various affected districts.

500 train passengers stranded
Meanwhile, defence personnel have engaged a helicopter to rescue 500 train passengers stranded in flood-hit southern Tamil Nadu, an official said. Of the total 800 persons stuck inside the train, 300 could be rescued and shifted to a school nearby around 1.30 am on Sunday. The rest, however, continued to remain stuck inside the stranded trains as the rescue personnel couldn’t so far reach the location.

At Srivaikuntam railway station, rope and accessories needed to lift people were lowered from the chopper and a number of passengers, including a boy, were airlifted to safety.

An earlier attempt by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to supply food and water to them had fallen flat due to the continuing flood situation. Although a chopper carrying two tonnes of food and other provisions for these persons reached the spot from the Sulur Air Force station, it could not land at the spot due to a heavy gush of run-off water.

"The work has commenced, passengers are being rescued," a Southern Railway official said here.

All arrangements are in place including buses to take the passengers to Vanchi Maniyacchi railway station, 38 km away from Srivaikuntam. A special train will be operated to Chennai from Vanchi Maniyachchi station. Earlier on Monday, NDRF authorities were alerted to rescue passengers in the Tiruchendur-Chennai Egmore Express (Train No 20606) which had departed from Tiruchendur to Chennai at 20.25 hours on December 17. The train was stopped at Srivaikuntam railway station in Thoothukudi district due to heavy rain and flood situation.

The station is surrounded by water on all sides and the train can't move as the tracks are damaged. With the soil under the railway tracks eroding for over seven kilometres, the ballast over which the tracks are fixed got washed away along with iron tracks. The supporting cement slabs can be seen dangling precariously. The outage of power supply and lack of sufficient visibility has further worsened the rescue mission here.

4 killed, 7000 rescued
Rail traffic remains suspended in the region as several trains were cancelled or rerouted with the tracks being submerged by the flood waters. The Meteorological Department has come up with a severe weather forecast warning for the region today as well. A holiday has been declared for all educational institutions in these four districts, where over 7000 people have so far been rehabilitated from flood-affected areas. Power outages have been reported from most locations while the mobile phone networks remain disrupted.

Slight relief for Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli
The heavy rains that battered the Kanyakumari district over the previous days subsided a bit on Monday morning. The low-lying parts of the region, however, remain inundated. In view of the forecast for more showers, the district administration has shifted people settled in the low-lying areas to safe locations. Presently, a total of 553 persons have been accommodated across 11 relief camps. A delegation led by Minister T Mano Tankaraj and District Collector P N Sreedhar visited the affected areas.

Meanwhile, the boat service to Swami Vivekananda Memorial at Kanyakumari was suspended for the second consecutive day on Monday. About 4600 square feet of water is being released from Pechiparai and Perunchani, the major reservoirs in the district. The Tirunelveli district too witnessed the rains abating during the day.

Presently, the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation is operating services only to Nagercoil from Tirunelveli. The services to Thoothukudi, Thiruchendur, Tenkasi, etc, have been suspended for the time being. A ban on the entry of visitors to the waterfalls at Tenkasi Kuttalam, Pazhaya Kuttalam, and Ancharuvi among others has been imposed. These locations have been witnessing a heavy influx of Sabarimala devotees although no visitors will be allowed till the water flow returns to normalcy.

Train regulations in Kerala too
The flood situation in Tamil Nadu has resulted in the cancellation of 17 trains, including those conducting services through Kerala, while several others were rerouted. The passenger train services in sections, including Tirunelveli, Thiruchendur, Tenkasi, and Thoothukudi, were fully cancelled.

Southern region to witness heavy rains today
Heavy rains accompanied by thunder and lightning are likely to lash Virudhnagar and Madurai districts from 1 noon today, the Chennai Meteorological Centre informed. A red alert has been sounded in both districts. The districts like Thoothukudi, Theni, Nilgiri, Dindigul, Coimbatore, and Tiruppur districts may also experience downpours, though the intensity of the rains is expected to abate by evening.


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