Memories of rain ravaged Madras

Former Chief Minister MGR wading through knee-deep waters. Photo: Special Arrangement

Former Chief Minister MGR wading through knee-deep waters. Photo: Special Arrangement  


As the recent deluge recedes and landmarks in the city become visible once again, sheets of water vanish to reveal the black tar on roads, and a battered population tries to get back to its feet, images of rains, floods and suffering from the past come to the mind.

Though cyclones, depressions and storms are an annual occurrence in Chennai, some years like 1985, when former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran was evacuated from his Ramapuram garden home, or 1976, when the Army stepped in to keep the Manali oil refinery running, are unforgettable.

1903- Rains bring floods

In 1903, the year the Indian National Congress session was held in Madras, the city faced heavy rains and floods. Historian V. Sriram says that leading lawyer and judge of the Madras High Court V. Krishnaswamy Iyer, who was the main force behind the session, had put up delegates at his bungalow on Luz Church Road. “After the session, his work was greatly appreciated by those in the welcoming committee and even by Dada Bhai Navroji, who was impressed by his shraddai,” he says.

1918 - 'Cyclone of unusual fury'

The year 1918 too was bad. “A terrible cyclone of unusual fury passed through Madras. The Madras public was quite unprepared to meet the uncommon storm as the report was received yesterday and could not be published in the newspapers,” says a report in The Hindu on November 11, 1918.

1943: No trains to ride

Writer Ashokamitran, who came to Madras in 1943 to drop his sister at her husband’s home in Saidapet, recalls how trains wouldn’t ply to Saidapet due to the rain. “We had bought tickets for Saidapet but the train stopped at Mambalam. We took a jutka to Saidapet and dropped her,” he says. It was in 1943 that The Hindu’s Srinivasan offered to print other newspapers when power supply was restored to The Hindu alone.

The 1985 floods bear a semblance to this year’s fury. The Kotturpuram slum clearance board tenements were flooded, with Ambattur and Madhavaram dairies flooded most of the city went without milk, water from Chembarambakkam was released and people residing on the banks were cautioned to move to safer places. It was this year too that Chief Minister M. G. Ramachandran and his wife Janaki shifted to the Connemara Hotel after waters from the raging Adyar river surrounded their Ramavaram Garden house. He took a boat from his house to reach his car parked on higher ground on the Porur Road and then drove to the hotel.

In more recent times, in 2005, torrential rain, caused by a deep depression over the Bay of Bengal, disrupted life in Chennai and northern Tamil Nadu in October. At least 50,000 people were shifted to relief centres, as houses in several low-level areas were submerged. The rainstorm in northern Tamil Nadu came just as the Cauvery districts were slowly recovering from the heavy flooding that followed huge inflows into the river from Karnataka.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 7:38:04 AM |

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