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India deploys troops in south to help citizens deal with deadly floods

The historic rainfall has put entire villages underwater, destroyed farmlands, and paralyzed transportation and commerce.

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    People wade through a flooded street in Chennai, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015
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A series of heavy storms has brought deadly flooding to India's southern coastal states, causing major disruption to rail, air, and road traffic and leaving many without power.

Soldiers have been deployed to rescue thousands of stranded people in Chennai, India's fourth most populous city, the BBC reports.

Officials describe the heavy rains, part of the annual monsoon season, as the worst in a hundred years.

"If the rains hold off, the situation will improve, but if they start up again tonight there will be more trouble," S.P. Selvan, deputy inspector general of the National Disaster Response Force, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The historic flooding has killed at least 188 in Tamil Nadu state, a region that saw a deadly heat wave this summer.

Authorities said more than a million people have been affected by the flooding, which has also paralyzed commercial activities. In the manufacturing hub, Ford Motor, Daimler, Hyundai, and Nissan told workers to stay at home, while outsourcing firm Cognizant shut its 11 local offices, according to Reuters. 

Flights from Chennai Airport were cancelled until Sunday, Dec. 6 after floodwaters swamped the runway and tarmac areas on Tuesday evening.

At least 10,000 police personnel and trained swimmers are being deployed to help with the rescue effort, Chennai police chief J.K. Tripathy told AFP.

"The police want to help but there are no boats. We are trying not to panic," Ramana Goda, who took refuge at a police station, told Reuters.

On Wednesday, India Meteorological Department issued severe flood warnings, and said the heavy rain is expected to continue "for at least the next 72 hours".

Amidst the devastating floods, residents have taken to social media to offer food and cell phone recharges to citizens who are being forced to evacuate their properties, the BBC reports.

A number of Good Samaritans have also temporarily opened their doors to strangers, posting their contact details online to all who might need them.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed climate change for the episodes of excessive rainfall, according to Reuters. 

After heavy rain last month, Mr. Modi promised on Twitter “all possible support & cooperation in this unfortunate hour."

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