Tirunelveli in 1992 Tamil Nadu

2 lakh cusecs released into Thamirabharani

An old bridge across Servalar river, leading to Papanasam dam, was washed away in the 1992 floods. Photo: The Hindu Archives

An old bridge across Servalar river, leading to Papanasam dam, was washed away in the 1992 floods. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

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After an 8-hour downpour, triggered by cyclonic activity, battered Ambasamudram, Vickramasingapuram and Papanasam, all situated close to the Papanasam and Servalar dams in the Western Ghats, on November 13, 1992, residents, who had never witnessed such torrential rain, confined themselves to their houses out of fear.

And the few families living at Thiruvalluvar Nagar near the Tamirabharani watercourse at Vickramasingapuram went to bed in the night with the hope that the downpour would subside in the morning. However, the unprecedented heavy overnight discharge from these reservoirs ultimately became a watery grave for 17 persons as they were trapped in their houses. Even as these two dams were overflowing, Papanasam dam, built by the British, received 310 mm of rainfall on November 13, 1992, and the Servalar dam recorded 210 mm rainfall. On its part, the Papanasam Lower Dam experienced a rainfall of 190 mm.

At the same time, the precipitation was unprecedented at Vickramasingapuram and Ambasamudram on the foothills of the Western Ghats, which received a rainfall of 320.60 mm on that day and the nearby Manimuthar dam, had 260.80 mm rainfall.

Left with no other option, the officials were compelled to open the floodgates of Papanasam and Seravalar dams in the night of that fateful day.

Water discharged from the two dams knocked down the Mundanthurai bridge within a few minutes and submerged houses on the banks of the river killing 17 persons at Thiruvalluvar Nagar in the early hours of November 14, 1992.

The situation worsened within next 60 minutes when over 60,000 cusecs of water was discharged from the Manimuthar dam. “The Tamirabharani carried a surplus water of 2,04,273.80 cusecs from three dams alone on that day and the quantum of water that flowed into the river from the rainfall at Vickramasingapuram, Ambasamudram and Kallidaikurichi was immeasurable,” recalls a Public Works Department staff, who was then working at Manimuthar dam.

Consequently, the flood that triggered devastation everywhere entered even Tirunelveli Junction bus stand, submerged more than 10 buses parked there and entered the Collectorate along on the banks. The flood subsided after nearly 48 hours after inundating most of the commercial establishments around the bus stand and railway junction and nearby residential areas like Sindupoondurai, Kailasapuram and Meenakshipuram.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 11:04:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/thamirabarani-floods-in-1992/article7964074.ece

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