Officials in India are investigating the death of 18 hospital patients who died due to massive floods in southern Tamil Nadu state, Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said on Saturday.
Earlier this week, floodwater seeped into hospital rooms, consequently cutting off power from generators and ventilators which resulted in the death of the patients in the intensive care unit at MIOT International hospital, in the state capital of Chennai.
As rain paused, more than half of Chennai's main areas remain under water, which raises the threat of disease and squalor in the city.
"We feel quite helpless," said Malti Soman, standing in knee-deep water in Mambalam, a residential area in central Chennai. "The landline phones are not working. And my cellphone is dead because there is no electricity to charge it."
Radhakrishnan, the health secretary, said that while rescue operations come to an end, the main focus ahead will be to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
In many areas, sewage drains have overflowed, becoming a health problem for residents, Radhakrishnan said.
"This is a concern," he said. "We are working with the local water and sewage agencies to disinfect the worst-hit areas."
Sanitation workers have started spraying insecticide in many places to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria due to the stagnant water.
Since November, the most catastrophic flooding in a century in Tamil Nadu killed at least 280 people. This week, authorities switched off power in some locations to prevent electrocutions that opened way to several deaths.