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Photos from flood-ravaged Chennai show city still underwater

Authorities in Chennai, the capital of India's southern Tamil Nadu state, are shifting from a rescue effort to disease prevention after the heaviest rains in a century left more than 280 people dead and tens of thousands wading through metres-deep floodwaters.

Death toll approaches 300 after heaviest rains in a century

Municipal workers clear the debris in an alley after floodwaters began receding in Chennai, India, on Monday. Rescue efforts in the inundated southern city shifted to disease prevention after the army spent days lifting people stranded on rooftops. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

Tamil Nadu hit by 100-year storm

The worst flooding in a century in Tamil Nadu has left more than 280 people dead since torrential rains began in November. In the latest deluge this week, authorities turned off power in some areas to prevent electrocutions that were blamed for several deaths.

An aerial view shows a flooded residential colony in Chennai on Sunday. In many areas, sewage drains have overflowed, posing a health hazard for residents who have had to wade through the water. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)
A man uses a board to float through a flooded street to reach to a market place in Chennai on Dec. 5. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

Record-setting rains leave deep floodwaters

While floodwaters that built up last week — after nearly 40 centimetres of rain fell in 24 hours; the most in 100 years — have begun to recede, vast swaths of Chennai and neighbouring districts are still under up to three metres of water.

A flood-affected couple in Chennai sits under a picture of Jayalalithaa Jayaram, chief minister of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, on Dec. 6. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)
Chennai, on the eastern edge of India, is built on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. It's a low lying area prone to flooding. Here, a car floats in the aftermath of a severe deluge on Dec. 4.

Rescue effort shifts to disease prevention

India's health department said that the rescue operation has shifted to a relief effort that includes focusing on measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

Residents of Chennai, India's fourth-largest city, took advantage of a break in the weather on Friday to leave their flooded homes. (Strdel/AFP/Getty)
Soldiers using helicopters and boats have rescued thousands of residents marooned in high-rise buildings and launched massive relief operations to provide food and medicine. (STR/AFP/Getty)
Residents of Chennai displaced by the floodwaters got food handouts from relief agencies in the immediate aftermath of the storms on Dec. 3.

Modi mocked on social media for doctored shot

Just after the rainstorms stopped, a photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who travelled to Chennai to survey the damage, was found to have been doctored. The official Press Information Bureau (PIB) quickly replaced the image, which it posted on Twitter, with the original shot and apologized for the "error in judgement." 

 

A city vulnerable to flooding

Chennai is a flat, coastal city with old flood mitigation measures. Trash-filled drains and buildings constructed on lake beds in the rush to industrialize have made it more prone to flooding.

Highways usually jammed with traffic were eerily free of cars on Dec. 3. (STR/AFP/Getty)
A partially submerged jet was spotted on an aerial tour during a break in the devastating rains on Thursday. (India's Press Information Bureau/Reuters)

Seasonal monsoons made worse by El Nino

India's main monsoon season runs from June through September, but for Chennai and the rest of the southeastern coast, the heaviest rainfall is from October to December. Experts say the heavy rainfall was linked to the El Nino weather pattern, when the waters of the Pacific Ocean get warmer than usual.

More than 40,000 people have been rescued in recent days after record rains lashed the coastal state, worsening weeks of flooding.
Daily life was turned on its head after the record-breaking rain storms last week.
Roads made too treacherous for driving turned into footpaths after days of flooding.

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