Heavy rain in south India and Sri Lanka has killed over 70 people while inundating homes, farmland and highways, forcing authorities to shut down schools and colleges in some areas, officials and media reports said.

The flooding, prompted by incessant rains over the past seven days, has submerged parts of Tamil Nadu state, including its capital Chennai, where most of the deaths and devastation has taken place.

Caused by a depression formed in the Bay of Bengal, the heavy rains have also affected Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states, as well as neighbouring Sri Lanka.

The military has been called in to help rescue at least 2,000 people that have been left stranded in Chennai.

Residents have complained of not getting enough help from the government. Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu's chief minister, announced a $75m relief fund has been set up and brushed aside criticisms the government was poorly prepared to deal with the flooding in Chennai, one of India's biggest cities.

"The rain that was meant to be spread out over the monsoon months has poured in just a few days," Jayalalithaa said during a visit to a flood-hit area in Chennai.

"No precautionary measures would have managed to prevent water logging and damages. In areas where flooding and damage have been caused, relief, rescue and repair works are being taken up on a war footing."

In Sri Lanka, floods in the northern parts have affected 58,000 people.

India's southeast coast is vulnerable to annual cyclones in November and December, and severe low pressure formations in the Bay of Bengal have resulted in heavier than usual rainfall, said weather officials.

In India's Chennai, Cuddalore, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Villupuram districts, 23-37cm of rain was recorded on a single day, much higher than the usual annual average.

Government officials said around 10,000 people living in low-lying coastal areas have been evacuated from their homes and given refuge in relief camps.

Homes have been destroyed and residents displaced by the weeklong rain [EPA]

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies