MUMBAI • Heavy rain brought India's financial capital Mumbai to a virtual standstill yesterday, flooding streets, causing transport chaos and prompting warnings to stay indoors.
Dozens of flights and local train services were cancelled as rain lashed the coastal city of nearly 20 million people.
Floods have killed more than 1,000 people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh in recent weeks and forced millions from their homes in the region's worst monsoon disaster in recent years.
As the meteorological department warned that the rain in Mumbai would continue for the next 24 hours, many offices sent staff home early, fearing a repeat of the 2005 floods that killed more than 1,000.
Thousands waded through waist-deep water to reach home after the mega-city received more than 100mm of rainfall. Children were sent home early from school.
"I haven't been able to travel and had to cancel all my plans," said researcher Rajesh Prabhakar, who was stranded on the outskirts of the city after flooding forced the cancellation of rail services.
"Many of my friends are stranded at railway stations... this is a reminder of the 2005 floods," he said.
Rainwater flooded the King Edward Memorial Hospital in central Mumbai, forcing doctors to vacate the paediatric ward.
"We are worried about infections... the rain water is circulating rubbish that is now entering parts of the emergency ward," said Dr Ashutosh Desai, who works in the 1,800-bed hospital.
Environmentalists blame frequent flooding in Mumbai on unscrupulous development that blocks drains.
Electricity, water supply, communication networks and public transportation were totally shut down during the 2005 catastrophe.
India's National Disaster Response Force, which launched a rescue mission with police to evacuate people from low-lying areas, said it was taking all precautionary measures.
"The heavy rain, flooding, are delaying our rescue work," said Mr Amitesh Kumar, who is joint commissioner of police.
"Even we are stranded."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS