Monsoon rains kill 119 across India

September 22, 2008 6:43:36 AM PDT
Helicopters and speed boats tried to reach nearly 570,000 stranded villagers Monday as the death toll from heavy monsoon rains and flooding across India reached 119 in the past three days. Most of the casualties were reported in India's most populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where 70 people were killed by drowning, house collapses and electrocution over the weekend in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri and Pilibhit districts, state police spokesman Surender Srivastav said Monday.

At least 17 people have died, mostly in house collapses, since Friday in eastern Orissa state with incessant monsoon rains causing the Mahanadi river to breach its banks at several places, causing the worst monsoon flooding in the state in 26 years, said Ajit Kumar Tripathi, the chief secretary.

Another 32 people died in the northern hilly state of Himachal Pradesh over the weekend, mostly buried by mudslides triggered by heavy rains, The Hindu newspaper said.

The new flooding came just a month after the monsoon-swollen Kosi river, a Ganges tributary that flows from Nepal to India, burst its banks and submerged nearly 1,000 villages in the impoverished northern Indian state of Bihar, killing at least 48 people and driving more than a million others from their homes.

In Orissa state, authorities have evacuated nearly 266,000 people since Friday and put them in 261 state-run relief camps, Tripathi told The Associated Press. Officials were trying to reach an addition 570,000 stranded villagers, he said.

The rains subsided Monday, causing water levels to recede in Orissa state. But several villages were still under more than 10 feet of water, and many people waited on rooftops to be taken to higher ground, Tripathi said.

Two helicopters delivered packets of food to the stranded villagers and 1,250 motorized and rowing boats rescued people in the worst-hit districts in Orissa state, Tripathi said.

The annual monsoon season, which runs from June to September, brings rains that are vital to agriculture in South Asia but also can cause massive destruction.

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