Even those who had not felt the tremors on Wednesday afternoon would soon have figured out that something was amiss, when they witnessed the traffic chaos in the city that followed. Large crowds had gathered around corporate offices, malls and theatres after 2.30 p.m., following the first tremor, and a sense of panic was in the air. People were seen frantically calling their homes and relatives to ask if they were safe. And when calls wouldn't go through, they tried texting, causing mobile phone networks to jam.
Soon, many offices, including those on GST Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai asked their employees, to leave for the day and the logjams and congestion began.
With most of Anna Salai declared a one-way because of ongoing Metro Rail work, a long queue of vehicles soon clogged the road, leading to sporadic blocks in parts of Saidapet, Alwarpet and TTK Salai. “Kasturi Ranga road was blocked and so, I took this route,” said Anwar Basheer, an employee of an IT company in Nandanam, on his way to Tambaram.
The situation worsened after most employees chose to avoid Kamarajar Salai as they believed it was blocked to restrain people from going to the beach after 4 p.m. The suspension of cab and bus services by IT companies in order to prevent traffic jams meant that a large number of people were on the road, searching for alternate means of transport. There were small traffic jams on LB Road with people in high-rise buildings running on to the road.
The emergency 108 service even received a call around 4 p.m. from a location in Guindy, stating that two people running out of their building had collided with one another and were hurt. banged into each other and got hurt. That was when the second tremor was felt. However, they did not require any hospitalisation.
Policemen urged autorickshaw drivers in stands to start moving and help commuters reach home. “Our company has strictly asked us not to use the MRTS. So I took an autorickshaw,” said Lakshmi Sethuraman, a BPO employee who works in T. Nagar. MRTS services were also suspended for an hour from 4 p.m. – at a time during which six services normally run. on both sides normally run.
With offices, schools and colleges closing early, MTC buses were running at full capacity by 4 p.md “We hope to rake in more than our usual collection,” said an MTC source. Local trains too saw extraordinary crowds and roads to the Central Station were jammed.
It took an hour for S. Manohar, an autorickshaw driver to travel from Central to Anna Salai at 3.45 p.m. “Everyone The police should have coordinated the closure of offices and schools. I had to take a long detour to reach Anna Salai,” he said.
Autorickshaws too were hard to get. One driver said he refused a trip that would have otherwise raked in Rs. 500 to the airport from Adyar as he wanted to get home. Many residents taking autorickshaws to north Chennai were seen sharing trips. With fisher folk being asked to return from the sea, roads including S.N. Chetty Road and the Ennore Expressway in the north that are dotted with fishing hamlets, witnessed traffic jams.
Educational institutions too allowed students to leave early. A number of government and aided schools that had classes in the afternoon were suspended by 2.30 p.m. Lady Sivaswami Ayyar Girls' Higher Secondary School, Mylapore generally closes around 4 p.m. but asked students and staff to leave after tremors were felt.
At Olcott Memorial School in Besant Nagar, teachers were seen escorting students to their homes. While some schools did not declare a holiday, they alerted parents through the bulk SMS service that the children were safe. School Education Department officials said schools would function as usual from Thursday.