Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Indian monsoon deaths nears 700

Agence France-Presse: Twenty-four more people have died in rain-related accidents across India, taking the death toll to at least 684 since the onset of the monsoon last month, officials said Monday. Eight people were washed away in a monsoon-swollen river in Rajasthan, while 11 perished in rain-related deaths in the central state of Madhya Pradesh with five other deaths reported in Kashmir and West Bengal.

In the normally arid state of Rajasthan, authorities have been using helicopters to pluck stranded villagers to safety. "The airforce is helping us evacuate people from villages which are now inundated," the state's relief secretary, C.K. Mathew, said in Jodhpur, adding that 60,000 people have been affected.

Since the onset of the annual rainy season at the beginning of June, the western coastal state of Maharashtra has taken the brunt of the damage. The provincial chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, said 385 people have died in the state, including 106 in the past week, with around 110,000 others affected by flooding.

Communist-ruled West Bengal has also seen four million people hit by flooding, with around a quarter of them stuck inside their submerged homes. The monsoon rains, which sweep India from June to September, cause flooding and deaths every year in the densely populated country of a billion-plus people.

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