Storm warning in India: 50000 people evacuated from homes in Madras

A deep depression that brought incessant rains and flooding to southern India this week is expected to strengthen into a cyclonic storm and hit the coast of Andhra Pradesh state overnight. A weather office bulletin said heavy rains were expected Friday along the coast of Andhra Pradesh and that Madras, the capital of neighboring Tamil Nadu state, would likely catch the edge of the storm.

Madras, a city of seven million people, has suffered about 41 centimeters (16 inches) of rain since Wednesday morning, the weather office said.

Four people died in Tamil Nadu overnight, raising to 60 the number of deaths in the state caused by the monsoon since the beginning of October, a relief official in Madras said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said most of them drowned or were washed away by rain-swollen rivers. The city's electricity supplier shut power to most areas to prevent electrocutions.

A further 26 people have died this month in neighboring Karnataka state from similar causes.

Heavy rains and wind speeds of up to 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour were expected in Andhra Pradesh, said G. Sudhakar Rao, director of meteorological department office in the state capital, Hyderabad. About 50,000 people living in low-lying areas of Tamil Nadu were forced to evacuate their homes Thursday and move to public buildings on higher ground, the relief official said. Flooding brought road and rail traffic to a standstill on Madras roads, stranding thousands of commuters. People waded through waist-deep water in downtown markets to buy food and other essential supplies.

Seven international flights scheduled to arrive in Madras Thursday morning were diverted to other airports because storm drains at the city's airport were flooded, said S. Subramaniam, the airport's general manager for operations. Several domestic flights were also canceled. A.M.