Tiruchi in 1977 Tamil Nadu

As many as ten floods within a century and sleepless nights on the terrace

Floodwaters inundating the roads near St.Joseph's College in Tiruchi during the heavy floods of 1977. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Floodwaters inundating the roads near St.Joseph's College in Tiruchi during the heavy floods of 1977. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

For several long-time residents of Tiruchi, last week’s Chennai floods brought back vivid memories of the 1977 floods that ravaged the city. That calamity was next only to the 1924 deluge — considered the worst ever of the 20th century in the region.

The Cauvery River and the Coleroon, essentially a flood carrier, several minor rivers, jungle streams and the network of irrigation system make Tiruchi flood-prone, especially during the North East monsoon. Tiruchi has witnessed floods in 1924, 1952, 1954, 1965, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2000 and in 2005.

Tiruchi 1977 still haunts those who survived the fury. The Cauvery was in spate with heavy inflows from Karnataka when a strong cyclone crossed the Nagapattinam coast on November 12 sweeping in nothing but water, wind and havoc. Though it got weakened into a cyclonic storm that evening over interior parts of Tamil Nadu, it emerged in the Lakshadweep islands the following day as a deep depression, according to a record of the Indian Meteorological Department (http://www.imd.gov.in/section/nhac/static/cyclone-history-bb.htm).

“The maximum wind (speed) recorded is about 120 kmph on the 12th morning in Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli and Pudukottai districts. An estimated 560 people died and more than 10 lakh were rendered homeless. 23,000 heads of cattle perished. The total damage to private and public property is estimated to be Rs.155 crore,” says the record.

Most parts of Tiruchi city and scores of villages in the composite district were up to seven feet under water. In Tiruchi city, the water almost reached the Mainguard Gate, the gateway to Rockfort. “St. Joseph’s College, Holy Cross College and Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College were inundated. The famous library of St. Joseph’s College suffered extensive damage,” recalls a former vice-principal V. Rangarajan. “The library lost 21,000 volumes of books on November 13,” says a reference in the college website.

Mr. Rangarajan observes that the water level rose rapidly. There were three feet of water in his ground floor house off the Salai Road nearby in no time. Many residents spent two or three nights atop terraces, including this writer, then in school. The Army was called out and fishermen from coastal areas chipped in, rescuing people in coracles from the marooned areas. With radio being the only mode of communication then, rumours kept people on tenterhooks. A rumour that the Bhavanisagar Dam had burst saw hundreds of people running on the streets and many climbed the Rockfort with whatever personal belongings they could carry.

The city faced an equally severe flood in 2005. The Cauvery breached its bank at Vengur near Tiruchi and overflowed at several other places. The island town of Srirangam, wedged between Cauvery and Coleroon, came under threat as the Cauvery bank almost breached at Melur before villagers and the Army reinforced the bund, averting a disaster.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 7:36:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tiruchi-floods/article7964077.ece

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