CHENNAI (India) • India has deployed the army and air force to rescue flood-hit residents in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where at least 71 people have died in around a week of torrential rains.
Media reports said military helicopters were being used to drop food and drinking water to the worst-hit areas, while schools and businesses in state capital Chennai had been forced to close.
Caused by a depression formed in the Bay of Bengal, the heavy rains have also affected the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, as well as neighbouring Sri Lanka.
Twelve children and 10 adults were airlifted to safety on Monday, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted an official as saying.
Television footage showed children in Chennai crammed in boats on water-logged roads, commuters wading through waist- deep waters to get to work and bridges submerged as lakes overflowed.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram said the government was "working day and night" to bring relief to victims of the floods. She announced a relief fund of five billion rupees (S$107 million), according to PTI.
She brushed aside criticisms that the government was poorly prepared to deal with the flooding in Chennai, one of India's biggest cities. "The rain that was meant to be spread out over the monsoon months has poured in just a few days," she told reporters during a visit to a flood-hit area in Chennai.
"No precautionary measures would have managed to prevent waterlogging and damages. In areas where flooding and damage have been caused, relief, rescue and repair works are being taken up on a war footing," she said.
India suffers severe flooding every year during the annual monsoon rains, which cover the subcontinent from June to September. Dozens died this year in flooding in the north-eastern state of Assam.
The Indian Meteorological Department warned yesterday of further heavy rain in the north of the state. Fishermen were advised not to put out to sea along the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, it said in a bulletin.
In Chennai, Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur and Villupuram districts, 23 to 37cm of rain was recorded on a single day, much higher than the usual annual average. Government officials said around 10,000 people living in low-lying coastal areas have been evacuated from their homes and given refuge in relief camps.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS