August 12, 2006

Rescuers search for bodies in Indian floods

By Rupam Jain Nair

SURAT, India (Reuters) - Rescuers and residents used
bulldozers and plastic buckets to clear debris and hunt for
bodies on Saturday in a major commercial center in western
India, one of the country's worst-hit areas during week-long

At least 350 people have been killed in the floods and
millions homeless. While waters have eased in many areas, the
respite could be brief with more monsoon rains forecast for
some areas.

The flooding, mainly in India's south and west, submerged
villages, damaged crops and hit business, especially in the
industrialized states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

In Surat, a thriving diamond and textile center in the
western state of Gujarat, troops and residents tried to recover

"We are removing bodies and tying them to a pole, so that
they do not float away," said Usman Miyan, a Surat resident.

Rescue workers, some of whom covered their faces with
masks, said they were concerned about the spread of disease.
Many of the bodies found in the fetid waters were badly

Surat, with a population of 3 million, was particularly
hard hit with about 80 percent of the city submerged. The
floods cut power and telecommunications in the city and
crippled its diamond-processing business, a major export

In central Gujarat, heavy rains continued to drench most

"Several reservoirs are full to the brim and we might have
to release more water from several dams across the state," a
senior state government official, told Reuters.

Some groups on Friday blamed the sudden release of water
from several large dams for making the floods this year even
worse and urged authorities to take some of the blame.


As water levels receded in Surat, residents who had spent
days stranded in high-rise buildings, sought aid handouts.

Some people fought over the free medicine, food and water
and even attacked trucks carrying blankets and food.

"I have been living on the railway platform from the past
three days. I don't know whether my wife and children are
alive," said Vinay Goyal, who works for a software company.

Authorities said at least 45 people were dead in the state,
adding that 400 people were still unaccounted for and they
feared hundreds of city's slum-dwellers might have been swept
out to sea.

In neighboring Maharashtra state, where about 200 people
have either died or are missing, rains eased over the past
24-hours and rescuers continued to evacuate thousands of people
stranded in about 300 villages.

In India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where at least
110 people have died and 1.7 million people forced from their
homes, officials warned of a fresh threat of more rains in the
next 48 hours.

"Heavy showers and winds of 60 kilometers per hour (40
miles per hour) speeds are likely to lash the coast," said M.
Satya Kumar, director of Hyderabad meteorological center.

(Additional reporting by S. Radha Kumar in HYDERABAD,
Krittivas Mukherjee in MUMBAI)