4 Dec 2015

Flooding engulfs homes, kills 269 in India

7:11 pm on 4 December 2015

Thousands are feared trapped in their homes after flooding devastated southern India, killing at least 269 people.

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Photo: AFP

The southern Indian city of Chennai (Madras) is experiencing a respite from rains, but forecasts of more showers remain in place.

More than 7000 people have been rescued so far by the army and the National Disaster Response Force, but many are still stranded, reports say.

Some 5000 houses are still under water with many people trapped inside them.

A total of 269 people are now known to have died in floods in Tamil Nadu state since last month.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who travelled to Chennai, has promised $US150m ($NZ224) to the flood-hit state.

A depression in the Bay of Bengal has triggered rains in coastal areas.

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Photo: AFP

Last month, non-stop rain for nearly a week brought the city to a standstill.

Three days of fresh rains have again led to massive flooding, inundating homes, hospitals, roads, railway tracks and the city's airport.

There has reportedly been no rain in Chennai on Friday morning (local time) and water levels were receding in some parts of the city.

Schools, colleges and factories are shut, exams postponed and power supply suspended in most parts of the city. An oil refinery has stopped operations.

A naval air base at Arakkonam, 70 kilometres from the Tamil Nadu state capital, was now being used as a makeshift airport with seven commercial flights expected to operate on Friday and Saturday.

Train services will remain suspended until Saturday, officials say.

A massive rescue operation is continuing to reach stranded people.

Troops have set up 25 shelters and community kitchens for the flood victims.

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Photo: AFP

Seema Agarwal, a resident, said she had seen many people queuing at bus stops to leave the city.

"There are people who haven't eaten for days. They have seen their possessions float away from the house. Food, clothes - all gone," she said.

Sudha Raman Murthy, a mother of two teenage daughters, said she usually had access to basic facilities.

"But today, we have no drinking water, no fresh food and no control over our lives."

The federal weather office has predicted two more days of torrential rain in the southern state, where nearly 70 million people live.

-BBC/ Reuters

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