Rescue boats in Chennai
Taxi app Ola has deployed free rescue boats to worst-hit region in ChennaiTwitter user @SaiShyamG

An Indian taxi service has launched free boat rescue services for those trapped in the floods in Chennai, India. More than 70 people have been killed due to the heavy rains, with around 10,000 people evacuated from their homes in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The Ola taxi app, which works on a similar basis to Uber, launched its rescue boat services on 17 November. The boats are deployed in water-logged areas based on information provided by the state's Fire and Rescue Department and are being operated by professional rowers and fishermen. It has also been reported that the boats will be used to provide food and drinking water in areas that are short of basic supplies. Ferrying and supplying services are both available free of charge.

"Thousands of citizens have been stranded and are suffering due to heavy rains and water-logging in Chennai," said Ravi Teja, business head of Ola's Tamil Nadu branch. "We are working closely with local stakeholders to help ferry those stranded in water-logged areas. Boats deployed by Ola will help ferry people to safer areas."

The concept is believed to have started as a joke on social media. However, many have taken to Twitter to praise the initiative since images of Ola boats began circulating. Ola has said that each rescue boat will consist of two rowers, who will be equipped with waterproof clothing to stay dry during the heavy rains. Umbrellas will also be available in the boat for customers who are rescued, with the boats being able to carry up to nine people at a time.

The National Disaster Response Force and the Indian army have been deployed to the region to assist with relief efforts, while the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha, has pledged 5 billion rupees (£49m, $75m) in relief funds.