Southern India flooding closes airport, cuts off power

NEW DELHI: Weeks of torrential rains have forced an airport in southern India to close and have cut off several roads and highways, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded in their homes, government officials said Wednesday.

Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju told reporters that the annual winter monsoon rains in Tamil Nadu state have been the heaviest the region has seen in decades. Army and naval rescue teams have joined several teams of National Disaster Response Force to help evacuate residents stranded in low-lying areas.

The airport in the state capital Chennai was closed earlier on Wednesday, and television channels reported that most main roads in the city were blocked by several feet of water and that power supplies had been cut. People could be seen wading in waist-deep water in several parts of Chennai. In several of the city's taller buildings all the ground floor apartments have been flooded forcing people to seek shelter with their neighbors.

The state has seen heavy rains for two weeks, and while the deluge slowed down to a drizzle Wednesday morning, the meteorological department has predicted more heavy rain over the next two days.

The rains have resulted in levels of the Adyar river, which runs through the city before draining into the Bay of Bengal, rising to a danger mark. The threat of the river overflowing its banks has led to fears the flooding could worsen.

The flooding has cut off several sections of the East Coast Road, a major highway that connects Chennai to adjoining Pondicherry.