An Amma canteen on Tiruvottiyur High Road in Thyagarajapuram, north Chennai, had a couple of unusual visitors on Saturday.

Two snakes, suspected to be cobras, were spotted peeping out of a bunch of damaged pipes in the canteen kitchen, around 10.30 a.m. on Saturday. The canteen was running on full steam with a long queue of customers waiting to place orders when the incident happened.

“I spotted the cobras when I was pushing waste water out through one of the discharge pipes. One of them hissed at me,” said 30-year-old S. Lakshmi, an employee of the canteen, who fainted at the sight.

Hearing her distressed cries, the other workers present in the canteen and the sanitary inspector rushed to the kitchen. They took an unconscious Lakshmi to a nearby hospital. She was discharged later.

With the news of the snakes in the canteen spreading, many customers left their food and rushed out. “I was waiting in the queue to order food when the canteen staff came running out of the kitchen. I heard them talking of snakes and ran for my life,” said S. Rajan, a resident of Thyagarajapuram.

After officials at the canteen alerted the control room, a team of six fire-fighters from Tiruvottiyur reached the spot and scanned the premises but failed to find the snakes.

“The area behind the kitchen is untidy and rodent traps lie scattered. The snakes must have come looking for prey,” said station fire officer, G. Mathivanan.

As the fire-fighters were unable to locate the reptiles, a team of forest officers from the wildlife division of the State forests department was roped into service. They too were unable to find any snakes after an hour’s search.

“The snakes may have slithered away to safety after people began rushing about in panic. They must have been attracted by the large number of rodent traps at the rear end of the canteen,” said Chennai forest ranger, S. David Raj.

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