14 people have died inside a Chennai hospital after severe flooding in the city cut off electricity to the hospital and its critical care systems.
Bodes of the nine men and five women have now been recovered from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the MIOT Hospital in the Manapakkam area of the city.
According to officials the hospital began flooding on Tuesday night after the nearby Adyar River burst its banks as Chennai was deluged by the worst rainfall in more than a century.
Many of the patients from the ICU were moved to the hospital’s Cancer department. However, this proved futile as the electricity supply to the hospital went down on Wednesday night.
The hospital was home to some 700 patients, a vast majority of whom were evacuated as the flood waters closed in. Those left behind were in too critical a condition to be moved.
According to reports, similar deaths have been reported in hospitals across the city.
Residents have been braving flood waters that often reach their chests to reach higher ground – clutching young children and a few precious belongings.
Waters have begun receding in some areas thanks to a lull in the heaviest rains in a century that have killed at least 280 people.
But another cloud burst was forecast for late on Friday night and officials said brimming waterways were the main concern in the low-lying coastal capital of Tamil Nadu state.
Despite combined rescue efforts by the military and civilian emergency services, help had yet to reach many areas and city-dwellers were growing impatient.
V. Raghunathan, 60, a manager at an interior design company living in the south of the booming industrial and port city, complained about the lack of warning before floodgates were opened.
“The authorities didn’t give us adequate information about water being released from a nearby lake. Before we could take action. My car has sunk and I had to move to the first floor of my apartment.”
The Tamil Nadu public works department said it did issue warnings prior to draining the lakes, but the information apparently did not reach the public because of a breakdown in media and phone communications. The Chennai edition of The Hindu newspaper did not go to press on Thursday, apparently for the first time in 137 years.
Police and government officials said they were investigating the deaths of 14 patients on life-support after a power failure in the intensive care unit of MIOT International, a private hospital.
Military helicopters dropped food to residents stranded on rooftops in India’s fourth-largest city, previously known as Madras. On Friday, the defence ministry doubled to 4,000 the number of soldiers deployed to help the rescue effort.
The government restored some commercial flights to a naval air base near the city of six million, but the main airport remained closed and completely awash.
Experts say the devastation was exacerbated by industrial and residential construction across flood plains and without adequate drainage in Chennai, known for its fast-growing automobile industry and IT outsourcing.
Affected carmakers such as Renault, Nissan Motor Hyundai Motor and component maker Apollo Tyres will decide on Saturday whether to resume production, whereas BMW will keep a plant closed until Dec. 7.
Rescue teams urged people to leave inundated regions. Only roofs in some villages remained visible. Where water had receded, masses of black mud and garbage piled up.
“We are sending technical experts and engineers who will find a solution to flush out all the flood water. It has to be drained out soon, but we don’t know how,” said the home ministry official, who was not authorized to speak on the record and asked not to be named.
Police constable P. Krishnaraj loaded his wife and two teenage daughters in a cycle cart and walked behind in knee-deep water, headed for a friend’s house on dry land to escape the squalid water lapping at their ground-floor home.
A steadily rising number of families sought safety on the Basion Bridge flyover, many slum-dwellers whose homes had been washed away. They sat in the open, carrying little bundles of prized possessions – soiled rupee notes and identity cards.
A small van that arrived at the top of the flyover bearing water packets and biscuits was immediately over-run by people desperate for relief.
Rajarwadi, who sold vegetables by the roadside, managed to grab a packet of biscuits for her daughter. Her plan was to move further away to catch the next volunteer food drop.
She hadn’t seen government officials offer help to people camped out on the busy flyover on Thursday even though it was in the middle of the city.
Jose Sebastian, the head of a local construction company, said the biggest worry for his volunteer group was areas where the water level was too high for them to deliver food.
“We feel rather helpless,” he said. “We have lots of food, we have volunteers ready to go, but we don’t have the boats.”