Death toll from Indian floods hits 1,100

RISING TIDE: Helicopters dropped food and brought aid to hundreds of thousands of people who had escaped to high ground near national highways and railway tracks


Mon, Aug 06, 2007 - Page 5

The death toll from floods sweeping across India topped 1,100 yesterday as more people drowned in swollen rivers that have stranded millions in their homes, officials said.

Six people died overnight in Uttar Pradesh, taking the death toll to 125 in the northern state where 2,400 villages have been cut off by the conditions, a government spokesman said.

"Almost all rivers are flowing above the danger mark but what worries us is the discharge of a large amount of water from nearby Nepal," relief department spokesman Shreesh Dubey said in the state capital Lucknow.

Helicopters dropped food and the army helped civil authorities carry out rescue operations. They also brought aid to hundreds of thousands of people who had escaped to high ground near national highways and railway tracks in India's Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states last week.

The South Asian monsoon season runs from June to September as the rains work their way across the subcontinent, a deluge that scatters floods and landslides across the region and kills hundreds of people every year.

An elderly couple and two of their relatives, who refused to leave their village, were crushed to death when their home collapsed on them on Saturday night in India's Uttar Pradesh State, Surendra Srivastava, a police spokesman, said yesterday.

"These four people, all in 70s, were living on the rooftop of their home," he said. Their village, Karonda, is nearly 60km southeast of Lucknow, the state capital.

"The Saturday night rains [in Uttar Pradesh state] have worsened the flood situation as rising river waters have entered villages forcing people to move to safer places," Srivastava said.

At least 11 people died in Uttar Pradesh state, mostly in house collapses, on Saturday, he said.

Ganeshganj was a thriving timber market town until last week.

It's under water now with the nearby Ghaghra River breaching its embankments.

"It's the fifth day today [yesterday] that my shop is closed. We are praying to God to save us from this calamity," said Maiku Lal, sitting close to his flooded kiosk.

Helicopters continued dropping packets of flour, salt, candles and match boxes to marooned villagers in India's Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states, officials said.

Floodwaters were receding in eastern Bihar state where nearly 10 million people in 19 of the state's 36 districts have been affected, said Manoj Srivastava, the disaster management secretary. The weather has cleared with no rains over the past three days in the state.

"Once road links are restored, the flow of relief material will naturally improve," Manoj Srivastava said.

People started returning to their homes in India's northeastern state of Assam where nearly 200,000 people have been living in government and makeshift camps since last week. Floods in the state have eased as it has not rained there since Thursday.

The number of dead in Bangladesh stood at 81, the country's information ministry said on Saturday. Raging floodwaters have battered 38 out of 64 districts in the delta nation of 145 million people.

Fakhruddin Ahmed, head of Bangladesh's military-backed interim government, visited the northwestern district of Sirajganj on Saturday. Despite the devastation, he said the government had enough food and medicine to distribute and foreign assistance wasn't yet needed.

Meanwhile, flood-displaced people have started to return home as monsoon rains eased in Nepal where landslides and floods have killed at least 91 people since the start of the season in June, officials said yesterday.

"People have started returning to their villages but relief programs are continuing," home ministry official Ishwar Regmi said.

Some 270,000 people have been affected by this year's monsoon, mostly in Nepal's southern plains area bordering India. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula flew to the area yesterday morning to inspect the relief camps.

"At least 91 people have been killed so far this monsoon, and we are expecting to get more information about casualties from various districts by this evening," said Regmi.

The incessant rainfall that triggered the deadly flooding and landslides is abating, meteorologists said.