Rain Swamps Indian City of 5 Million

NEW DELHI (Bloomberg) -
Flooded areas are pictured on the outskirts of Chennai, India, December 2, 2015. The heaviest rainfall in over a century has caused massive flooding across the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, driving thousands from their homes, shutting auto factories and paralysing the airport in the state capital Chennai. REUTERS/Stringer EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE
Flooded areas are pictured on the outskirts of Chennai, India, Wednesday, Dec. 2. (Reuters/Stringer)

The worst deluge in a century in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu paralyzed Chennai, closing offices, automobile factories and the airport in the city of 5 million.

Media pictures showed families wading through sometimes neck-deep water, planes stranded at the shuttered airfield and office complexes flooded up to the first floor. Some factories curbed output for a second straight day, including those of Ford and BMW. Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant Technology Solutions declared holidays for their staff.

Many low-lying neighborhoods in the city and surrounding areas were submerged due to the incessant downpour, with power outages adding to the misery. The army and navy deployed personnel to help rescuers trying to evacuate the stranded. Chennai’s airport will remain closed for at least a week and some 25 jets are stranded, Deepak Shastri, the airfield’s director, said by telephone from the city.

“No one should venture out of their homes,” Shastri said. “I don’t think any flight is possible for at least a week. There’s a forecast for more rains, and we will need to clean up the debris in the entire field after that.”

Chennai is a hub for many manufacturers, including Hyundai Motor Co., Ashok Leyland and Renault. Daimler’s truck unit closed its plant there previously.

The Indian Meteorological Department forecasts rain and thunderstorms in some parts of the city until Dec. 7. Chennai has a population of almost 5 million, with the number rising to about 9 million if its sprawling suburbs are included.

Three of Chennai’s four reservoirs are near full capacity, the local water department’s data show as of Wednesday.

Some 600 personnel will be arriving by the end of Wednesday with rescue boats, diving equipment and medical response gear, said S. S. Guleria, a deputy inspector general at India’s National Disaster Response Force.

“It’s the first time Chennai has seen anything like this,” he said, adding that so far, there didn’t appear to be major causalities from the inundation.