CHENNAI: It is hard to tell where the river ends and the airport begins in Chennai, which is flooded after record rain this week.
An aerial view from an Indian Air Force chopper this morning revealed that the airport is submerged and the runway has vanished under water. The control tower is also marooned and a row of planes can be seen standing in water.
The airport, say experts, is doomed to suffer every time the river is flooded. It is built on the flood basin of the river Adyar.
A bridge was constructed over the river to extend the airport’s second runway by 1400 metres.
When the river overflows, there is no place for the water to go but towards the airport, which is the country’s fourth busiest after Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru and handles some 15 million passengers a day.
Chennai is the only airport in India to have a runway over the river. Environmentalists had warned against it.
The bridge was constructed above the water levels during the 2005 flood in the city, say officials, but it failed to stop disaster this time.
It may take two or three days for flights to start at the airport. The air force base at Tamabram, about 20 km from Chennai, has been turned into a makeshift airport for now.
There have been no flights since Monday evening, when the runway got flooded.
Some 7-800 people trapped in the airport are being flown by the air force to Tamabram.
Across Chennai, thousands are still stranded in their homes or other buildings and waiting for relief.