Mumbai: Heavy rain brought India's financial capital Mumbai to a virtual standstill on Tuesday, flooding streets, causing transport chaos and prompting warnings to stay indoors.

Dozens of flights and local train services were cancelled as rains lashed the coastal city of nearly 20 million people.

Floods have killed more than 1,000 people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh in recent weeks and forced millions from their homes in the region's worst monsoon disaster in recent years.

As the meteorological department warned that the Mumbai rains would continue for the next 24 hours many offices sent staff home early, fearing a repeat of 2005 floods that killed more than 1,000 people.

"I haven't been able to travel and had to cancel all my plans," said researcher Rajesh Prabhakar, who was stranded on the outskirts of the city after flooding forced the cancellation of rail services.

"Many of my friends are stranded at railway stations... this is a reminder of the 2005 floods."

People walk on water-logged railway tracks

Environmentalists blame frequent flooding in Mumbai on unscrupulous development that blocks drains.

Electricity, water supply, communication networks and public transportation were totally shut down during the 2005 catastrophe.

India's National Disaster Response Force said it was taking all precautionary measures.

Traffic gridlocked

Heavy monsoon rains brought India's financial capital to a grinding halt on Tuesday, with authorities struggling to evacuate people before a high tide was expected to add to the chaos.

Incessant rain flooded low-lying areas of Mumbai and paralysed train services used by hundreds of thousands of commuters daily, with many stranded at stations. Poor visibility has forced airport authorities to divert some flights.

Thousands waded through waist-deep water to reach home after the mega city received more than 4 inches of rainfall. Children were sent home early from school.

Weather officials are predicting more heavy rains over the next 24 hours and have urged people to stay indoors. A high tide is expected to hit the city later on Tuesday.

The National Disaster Response Force launched a rescue mission with police to evacuate people from low-lying areas.

"The heavy rains, flooding, are delaying our rescue work.

Even we are stranded," said Amitesh Kumar, joint commissioner of police.

Rainwater flooded the King Edward Memorial Hospital in central Mumbai, forcing doctors to vacate the paediatric ward.

"We are worried about infections...the rain water is circulating rubbish that is now entering parts of the emergency ward," said Ashutosh Desai, a doctor in the 1,800 bed hospital.

Although Mumbai is trying to build itself into a global financial centre, parts of the city struggle to cope during annual monsoon rains.

Floods in 2005 killed more than 500 people in the city. The majority of deaths occurred in shanty town slums, which are home to more than half of Mumbai’s population.

Unabated construction on floodplains and coastal areas, as well as storm-water drains and waterways clogged by plastic garbage, has made the city increasingly vulnerable to storms.

Many businesses asked employees to leave early in expectation of worsening traffic jams. Rains and a high tide in the western coastal city threaten to overload an ageing drainage system.

People wade next to vehicles during a traffic jam along a flooded road in Mumbai

Tuesday's congestion is also expected to be worsened by crowds flocking to perform the ritual immersion in the sea of idols of the Hindu god Ganesh, the conqueror of obstacles, in a major annual festival.


With inputs from AFP and Reuters