South Indian floods kill hospital patients, but rains ease

Fri Dec 4, 2015 11:17am EST
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By Sanjeev Miglani

CHENNAI, India (Reuters) - Rains eased in the flood-hit city of Chennai in southern India on Friday, raising hopes that rescue efforts could pick up, after the death of 18 patients at a private hospital added to the official toll of 280 confirmed killed in the disaster.

The commercial airport of Chennai will also be partly opened on Saturday after being shut for the past three days, which should help move workers and relief materials badly needed in the city of six million.

Flood waters that had started to recede began rising again around noon after a new cloudburst that sent residents running for shelter under trees and in shopfronts. Parts of the flat, coastal city remained under as much as eight feet (2.5 meters) of water for a fourth day.

Many residents have spent days stranded on rooftops since more than 345 mm (14 inches) of rain fell over 24 hours on Dec. 1, the most since the British ruled the city in Tamil Nadu state, then known as Madras, 100 years ago.

India's fourth-largest city, Chennai has boomed in the 21st century as a center for vehicle factories and IT outsourcing. But trash-filled drains and building on lake beds in the rush to industrialization and prosperity has made it more prone to flooding.

Despite combined rescue efforts by the military and civilian emergency services, help has yet to reach many areas. Residents were angered by reports that authorities had released water from brimming lakes without much warning.

In one of the most shocking incidents, 18 patients in the intensive care unit of the MIOT International hospital have died since Wednesday, Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said, after floods took out generators running life-support systems. An enquiry will be conducted into the tragedy, he said.

Military helicopters dropped food to residents stranded on rooftops and the defense ministry doubled to 4,000 the number of soldiers deployed to help the rescue effort.   Continued...

A man carries drinking water in a pitcher through a flooded street in Chennai, December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee