August 29, 2006

Flood levels recede in India’s desert state

JAIPUR, India (Reuters) - Relief workers in India's
flood-affected western state of Rajasthan stepped up efforts to
rescue thousands of stranded villagers on Tuesday, as water
levels began to recede, officials said.

Flooding triggered by monsoon rains over the past week has
killed almost 140 people and left hundreds of thousands of
people displaced in the state, most in the district of Barmer
-- a vast desert area dotted with villages bordering Pakistan.

Over 800,000 of Barmer's two million population have been
affected by the floods with hundreds of people still missing.

"The death toll in floods in Barmer touched 103 as seven
more bodies were recovered in the past 36 hours in the
district," R.K. Meena, Rajasthan's relief secretary, told

"We have stepped up relief operations as water has started
to recede in some of the areas of the district."

Officials say the heavy rainfall is the worst in at least
three decades in the arid state, normally known for drought and
severe water shortages.

Barmer recorded 577 mm (22.7 inches) of rainfall in just
three days -- more than double the average rainfall it usually
receives for an entire year.

In western and southern India, more than 500 people have
been killed and millions left homeless since the annual monsoon
rains began in June.

In neighbouring Nepal, at least 10 people have died and 60
people are missing after weekend floods and landslides in the
western parts of the Himalayan kingdom.

(Additional reporting by Gopal Sharma)