Chennai: At least 14 people have died in Tamil Nadu following heavy rains, officials said. Several districts in the state were on high alert, bracing for more torrents as a depression over the southwest Bay of Bengal was set to cross northern Tamil Nadu. Meanwhile, the 'red alert' for heavy rainfall - issued for eight Tamil Nadu districts, including Chennai - was withdrawn after the depression that triggered the alarm, and led to widespread flooding in the city and across the state, weakened at landfall.
The heavy rains first struck over the weekend, hitting the capital, Chennai. Photos and videos from the city showed residents wading through knee-deep waters and vehicles nearly submerged in the heavily flooded roads.
At least 14 people died in the last few days, said N Subbaiyan, the director of the state’s disaster management. At least 800 huts have been destroyed this past week by the rains, said Kumar Jayant of the state's revenue department.
Multiple teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed to help local authorities with rescue efforts. In Chennai, which is among the worst hit, officials have evacuated hundreds of people from vulnerable areas. Authorities have also set up over 100 relief centers and distributed free food, local media reported.
The rains this week are among the heaviest to hit the city since 2015. Experts have warned that more heavy rains can trigger further flooding and devastation.
“The public should not go out,” Greater Chennai Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi said. He said authorities had managed to drain the majority of the floodwaters, but cautioned that low-lying areas could once again get inundated.
Rains at this time in Tamil Nadu are not unusual, but experts have warned that climate change has exacerbated the problem, making the downpours more intense and frequent. Last month, flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains killed at least 28 people in neighboring Kerala state.