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Chennai prepares for more rainfall as residents struggle to cope with flooding

Written by on 10/11/2021

We’re standing in the bedroom of a house, knee-deep in filthy floodwater.

Aluminium cooking pots bob around us, there are piles of wet clothes and a little red teddy bear floats by.

It’s grubby, sodden and miserable.

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Sky reporter in Chennai’s floods
Kartik Katerina Vittozzi, VT
Image: Kartik (pictured) and his family had to evacuate on Sunday after torrential and intense rain

Kartik lives here with six members of his family but had to evacuate on Sunday after torrential and intense rain.

Everything is ruined.

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“Pain,” Kartik says, pointing at his chest, “I feel pain.”

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Heavy rain in this part of India isn’t unusual, especially during the late monsoon season.

Katerina Vittozzi in Chennai
Image: A lot of homes in Chennai are on the ground and floodwater has built up inside

But two factors make this rain especially difficult, and they’re typical of the bind that many developing cities find themselves in.

Rapid urbanisation means that drains and ground that would naturally soak up the rain have gone.

Streets flood much more easily and remain flooded, as the water struggles to drain.

Katerina Vittozzi in Chennai
Image: Water pumps have been used to remove some of the water

Then there’s extreme weather: like the unpredictable, intense and unusual rainfall that fell over Chennai on Sunday.

We know that, with our warming planet, the latter will become more frequent.

But we know cities can change.

Katerina Vittozzi in Chennai
Image: More than 20cm of rain fell in Chennai at the weekend.

They can adapt and become more robust.

They could certainly do with some of that resilience here where every new burst of rain brings a wave of genuine despair.

More than 20cm of fell in Chennai at the weekend.

In low-lying parts of the city that water has still not drained away.

Katerina Vittozzi in Chennai
Image: Heavy rainfall has forced people to evacuate their homes in Chennai

In one community, where many people have been evacuated from their homes, we speak to a man called Somu.

His small house was flooded on Sunday and ever since his family has been sleeping in a government school.

There is no power at their house but Somu goes back during the day to try and guard what possessions haven’t been ruined by water.

Somu speaks to Katerina Vittozzi in Chennai
Image: Somu’s small house was flooded on Sunday and ever since his family has been sleeping in a government school

“People can’t stay here,” he tells us.

“It’s very difficult. It’s been three days like this, this is the fourth day.

“People are really suffering here.”

His neighbours have all come together and paid for a huge pump to clear out some of the stagnant water.

Because this water simply isn’t going anywhere, and they are preparing for more to come.

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