At least 269 people had been killed in the state since heavy rains started in the beginning of November, said India’s home minister Rajnath Singh, although no deaths have been reported in the latest deluge.
“I can’t even believe that this much water was possible in Chennai,” one woman said as she stood in waist-deep water in the state capital.
“We don’t have any food. We don’t have any milk,” she said. “But I’m scared to walk down this road. The water comes up almost to my hips.”
Chennai has received more than 13 inches of rain over the last 24 hours, significantly higher than the regional average for the entire month, Mr Singh said.
While the downpour eased yesterday morning, the Indian meteorological department has predicted more heavy rain through the rest of the week. The rains have been caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal, the agency said.
Separately, news reports said that flood waters released from a lake on the outskirts of Chennai inundated more neighbourhoods in the city. The Adyar river, which runs through Chennai before draining into the Bay of Bengal, was flowing above a danger mark. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi surveyed the destruction and flooding from an air force helicopter.
An aerial view of Chennai showed low-lying neighbourhoods as well the city’s airport almost completely submerged. The Airport Authority of India said that the airport was likely to be closed until Sunday.
Dozens of trains have been delayed, and yesterday the main train station was so heavily flooded that it had to shut down operations.
Even though hundreds of army, navy and local police and fire department rescuers were helping evacuate those trapped in their homes, Twitter and other social media were flooded with calls for help from across the city.
Most of those still trapped were either the elderly or people with very young children.