August 8, 2006

Floods maroon thousands in Indian cities, 200 killed

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Swirling floodwaters inundated
several towns and cities in western and southern India on
Tuesday as the military deployed helicopters and boats to help
hundreds of thousands of marooned people.

Nearly 200 people have been killed in flooding due to
incessant rains over the past week in the western states of
Gujarat and Maharashtra and the southern state of Andhra

Flash floods triggered by torrential rain have also killed
more than 140 people in neighboring Pakistan's northwestern
region, submerging hundreds of villages and causing extensive
damage to property.

Indian television pictures showed waist-high water in the
streets of Surat, the main industrial town of Gujarat and the
nerve-centre of India's flourishing diamond polishing trade.

Roadside kiosks and temples were submerged and water lapped
at the walls of multi-storey apartment blocks.

"I am not able to reach my house. It is completely
submerged in water," Ajay Bania, a Surat resident, said by

Over 200,000 people have been shifted to safer ground in
the Surat region as water entered villages and low-lying areas.

Hundreds of industrial units have been shut down and
schools and colleges closed in Surat. Rail and road traffic
remained suspended.

In neighboring Maharashtra, heavy rains over the last four
days have killed 77 people, mostly in the state's east and
north, and destroyed crops and homes.

"About 15,000 people are being evacuated and taken to
safety by army and air force personnel. We are sending them
rations," D.K. Sankaran, Maharashtra's seniormost bureaucrat,

Television images of Nanded and Nasik towns in Maharashtra
showed vast areas covered in sheets of water with only a few
trees standing.

In Andhra Pradesh, the death toll due to torrential rain
over the past five days climbed to 106 on Tuesday with 12 new
deaths reported from across the state.

Officials said they were concerned about the threat of
infectious diseases as water had stagnated at many places.
Nearly 1,200 villages were marooned and 1.5 million people
displaced in eight districts, they added.

More heavy rains were likely in the state due to a
depression over the Bay of Bengal, and Sonia Gandhi, the head
of the ruling Congress party was due to visit the area on


In Pakistani Kashmir, a woman and her four children were
killed when a landslide triggered by heavy rains fell on their
house near the earthquake-devastated town of Muzaffarabad.

In southwestern Baluchistan province, flash floods hit over
30 villages, washing away crops and houses and killing

"There are some villages where more than half of the
population is badly hit and they have no shelter, food or
livestock," provincial government spokesman Raziq Bugti said.

Around 12,000 people have been marooned and about 300
houses were washed away in Baluchistan's Sibi district. Many
cases of snake bite have also been reported from the flood-hit

(Reporting by Rupam Jain Nair in AHMEDABAD, Krittivas
Mukherjee in MUMBAI, S. Radha Kumar in HYDERABAD and Abu Arqam