More rains forecast for flood-hit southern India

Indian residents attempt to push a vehicle through floodwaters as others wade past in Chennai on December 2, 2015.

Indian residents attempt to push a vehicle through floodwaters as others wade past in Chennai on December 2, 2015.

The heaviest rainfall in more than 100 years has devastated swathes of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with thousands forced to leave their submerged homes and schools, offices and a regional airport shut for a second day Thursday.

At least 269 people had been killed in the state since heavy rains started in the beginning of November, said India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh, although no deaths have been reported in the latest deluge.

State capital Chennai has received more than 330 millimeters (13 inches) of rain over the last 24 hours, which is significantly higher than the regional average for the entire month of December, Singh said.

While the downpour eased early Thursday, the Indian Meteorological Department has predicted more heavy rain in several parts of the state through the rest of the week. The rains have been caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal, the agency said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the flood-hit parts of the state later Thursday.

Separately, news reports said that flood waters released from a lake on the outskirts of Chennai inundated more neighborhoods in the city. The Adyar river, which runs through Chennai before draining into the Bay of Bengal, is flowing above a danger mark.

An aerial view of Chennai showed low-lying neighborhoods as well the city’s airport almost completely submerged. The Airport Authority of India said that the airport is likely to be closed until Sunday.

Dozens of trains to the state have been delayed this week, and on Thursday the main train station was so heavily flooded that it had to shut down operations. Singh said that railways officials convened an emergency meeting to get the station back on track quickly.

Even though hundreds of army, navy and local police and fire department rescuers were helping evacuate those trapped in their homes, Twitter and other social media were flooded with calls for help from across the city.

Most of those still trapped were either the elderly or people with very young children.

The state government cut power to several parts of Chennai as a safety measure to prevent electrocutions. Most deaths in the last month of rains have been due to drowning, electrocution and wall collapses.

India’s main monsoon season runs from June through September, but the period between October to December — also called the retreating monsoon — brings the most rainfall to India’s southeastern coastal areas.


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