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India flooding shuts airport, forces hundreds of thousands to flee

Some 200,000 residents of Tamil Nadu state in India have had to flee their homes in the worst monsoon rains in a century. Prime Minister Modi has mobilized army and naval rescue teams.

Officials in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu were forced to close the airport in the capital Chennai on Wednesday amidst rapidly rising flood waters. Some 200,000 people have been forced from their homes. Power across parts of the city has been shut down, and local factories brought to a standstill as the state awaits more than 41 inches (104 centimeters) of rain over the next two days.

According to Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju, this year's winter monsoon rains in Tamil Nadu are the worst they have been in decades, perhaps a century. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mobilized the National Disaster Response Force to rescue those stranded in low-lying areas and the higher floors of Chennai's tallest buildings.

The deluge comes as the result of two weeks of pounding rains, and though this had slowed to a drizzle Wednesday morning, the Indian Meteorological Department warned that it would pick back up again in the next 48 hours.

The heavy rains have caused the levels of the Adyar River, which runs through the city before emptying into the Bay of Bengal, to rise dangerously high. Should the river overflow its banks, the flood damage could become much worse.

The flooding has cut off Chennai from neighboring Pondicherry by making the major highway between the two impossible to traverse. It has also caused chaos for business, as Chennai is a major hub for IT outsourcing and auto manufacturing, with factories for Ford and BMW being forced to shut down.

Modi blamed climate change for the havoc in Tamil Nadu, speaking as he returned from an international

climate conference in Paris

that has highlighted the particular vulnerability of tropical nations such as India to extreme weather conditions.

es/sms (AP, Reuters)

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