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India floods swamp airport and disrupt BMW, Ford in Chennai

People stand on a flooded road in Chennai, India, December 2, 2015.

[NEW DELHI] The worst deluge in a century in India's southern Tamil Nadu state paralyzed Chennai, causing floods and closing offices, factories and the airport in a metropolis of about 9 million people that's facing more rain.

Television images showed brown floodwater lapping at the wheels of stranded aircraft Wednesday and families wading sometimes neck-deep in inundated streets. Factories curbed production a second straight day, including those of Ford Motor Co and BMW AG. Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd. and Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. told staff to stay away from local offices.

The national forecaster said rains may continue to lash India's fourth-largest city this week, threatening further disruption in a hub for automobile manufacturing and information technology services as the army and navy step up rescue efforts. The airport is set to remain closed and about two dozen jets are stranded there, including some belonging to budget carrier SpiceJet Ltd.

"I don't think any flight is possible for at least a week," Chennai International Airport Director Deepak Shastri said by phone from the city. "There's a forecast for more rains, and we'll need to clean up the debris in the entire field after that." Chennai-based TVS Motor Co, which makes motorcycles and scooters, slid 4.9 per cent, the most since Aug 24, after saying rainfall in the past three weeks adversely affected production and sales. Shares in drug maker Natco Pharma Ltd, which shut down a plant temporarily due to flooding, slid for a third day.

Many manufacturers are based in or near Chennai, including Hyundai Motor Co, Ashok Leyland Ltd and Renault SA. Daimler AG closed a plant there due to the weather.

The Indian Meteorological Department forecasts precipitation and thunderstorms in some parts of the city until Dec 7. The next 48 hours are critical for the rain situation in south India, the department's Director General L. S. Rathore said in New Delhi.

Three of Chennai's four reservoirs are near full capacity, the local water department's data show as of Wednesday.

Some 600 personnel are due to arrive with rescue boats, diving equipment and medical response gear, said S. S. Guleria, a deputy inspector general at India's National Disaster Response Force.

"It's the first time Chennai has seen anything like this," he said, adding so far there didn't appear to be major causalities from the inundation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa spoke Tuesday about the unfolding disaster. The state government described the torrential rains as the heaviest in more than a 100 years.

The city suffered a 1,218.6 millimeters of precipitation in November, three times more than normal, according to forecaster Skymet. The northeast monsoon typically sets in between October and December over India's east coast, where Chennai is located.