June 27, 2005

Thousands flee Indian state after flash floods

CHANDIGARH, India (Reuters) - Thousands of people fledtheir homes in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradeshafter a river burst its banks, which police said may have beencaused by a swollen lake in neighboring China.

Dozens of homes, bridges and roads in the mountainous statehave been washed away since the Sutlej river rose on Sundayforcing an estimated 5,000 people to seek shelter in schoolsand government buildings on higher ground.

But no deaths have been reported from anywhere in thestate.

A police official said the rise in river water levels couldbe due to the overflow of an artificial lake in neighboringTibet which was formed last year after a landslide blocked thePareechu river -- a tributary of the Sutlej.

"Satellite imagery will reveal the exact cause of thefloods, but we believe the rising water was the result of anoverflow of the lake," Arvind Sharda, a police officer toldReuters.

There has been no comment from Chinese authorities.

Last year, authorities evacuated about 3,000 people fromdownstream villages in Himachal Pradesh on fears that the lakewould burst its banks. But it did not overflow.