July 30, 2005

Western India flood toll 850, flights grounded

BOMBAY (Reuters) - The death toll from western India's
worst flooding in nearly a century rose close to 850 on
Saturday as rescue workers pulled out more dead bodies from
landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains, officials said.

Authorities braced for further floods as the weather office
forecast more rains in the next two days in the western state
of Maharashtra and its capital, Bombay.

India's financial hub ground to a near-halt earlier in the
week after two days of torrential downpours. "The situation is
improving in Bombay. But increased rainfall activity from this
morning is worrying us," a relief official said.

Flights out of Bombay airport -- India's busiest -- were
suspended after an Air India Boeing 747 skidded off the wet
runway as it landed from the city of Bangalore, officials said.
None of the 333 passengers on board were hurt.

"The runway is blocked at the moment. No landing is taking
place," said Air India spokesman Jitendra Bhargava. "All
passengers are safe. They have all been taken off the aircraft
and taken to the terminal building."

In Bombay, city authorities and health workers continued to
clear garbage and carcasses of animals and sprayed insecticide
to prevent breeding of mosquitoes as stagnant flood waters
remained in some areas. (Additional reporting by Amitabh Sinha