The city of Chennai is still attempting to comprehend just what it underwent over the past week. Receiving the most rain in a century can do that to a city. According to weather forecaster Skymet, more rain fell on Chennai in the first two days of December than the city normally expects to receive all month. As a result, much of Tamil Nadu's coastline was inundated with water, causing the deaths of more than 280 people and massive amounts of damage to property.
More than a week since the rain abated and the water subsided, the India military continues to take part in operations to rescue people who were left stranded in waterlogged areas. And only now, as electricity and phone services go back up and people begin to assess the damage, is the city starting to figure out what went wrong.
Analysis has mainly focused on the shoddy construction and development that has been a part of Chennai's expansion over the years. A city that was once full of tanks and wetlands has been replaced by unfettered urbanisation and inadequate infrastructure. That said, it is still worth pointing out just how extreme of an event the rain was, so much that it is now being connected to the El Niño effect.
The video above, put together by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration adds up the rainfall that India's eastern coast experienced between November 28 and December 4. It shows the tropical lows that developed off the coast, just as they did earlier in November when Chennai's flooding woes this year.
Produced by merging data from a number of satellites, the NASA tool found massive amounts of rain over Tamil Nadu, with highest tools estimated as up to 500 mm of rain in just one area. As it shows, the clouds and rain spread across the Bay of Bengal and up and down over the eastern coast, before suddenly becoming incredibly heavy over Chennai.
What follows is a period of intense rain that completely battered Chennai and its surrounding areas.
"The city of Chennai on India's southeastern coast was hit particularly hard. More than 260 deaths have been reported in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Data from NASA's Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) were used to estimate the flooding rainfall that fell from November 28 to Dec. 4, 2015. Over 400 mm (15.7 inches) of rainfall were estimated over areas south of Chennai," NASA's website said.
The size of the purple patches in the video confirms this and goes some way to explaining why things were as bad as they were. And there's worse news: It's not going away anytime soon. The El Niño effect will ensure that there are more freak weather events over the next year alone, while the urbanisation and construction has gone so far in the city that it would be difficult to now retrofit large parts of the city to better deal with flooding.