Monsoon rains kill 650 in northern India

LUCKNOW, India Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:42pm IST

A boy pushes his bicycle on a flooded street in Allahabad August 19, 2008. Floods caused by heavy rains have swamped hundreds of villages in northern India, killing at least 114 people since last week, officials said. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

A boy pushes his bicycle on a flooded street in Allahabad August 19, 2008. Floods caused by heavy rains have swamped hundreds of villages in northern India, killing at least 114 people since last week, officials said.

Credit: Reuters/Jitendra Prakash

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LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - Floods caused by heavy rains have swamped hundreds of villages in northern India, killing at least 114 people since last week, officials said.

Authorities said more than 650 villages were cut off in Uttar Pradesh, as rivers broke through embankments, swamping villages and affecting nearly 1.5 million people.

Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state with 170 million people, and is also one of the most flood-prone regions in the country. Hundreds die every year.

Many of the latest deaths in the state were caused by houses collapsing.

In total, about 660 people have died during this monsoon season in Uttar Pradesh, Balwinder Kumar, a senior government official told Reuters on Thursday.

"Incessant rains have continued to wreak havoc in the entire state during the current monsoon season," Kumar said.

At least 41 people were killed over the past two days, as rains lashed the state, destroying more than 2,500 homes and inundating croplands, Kumar said.

Heavy rains have destroyed paddy and wheat crops, the main source of livelihood in the state.

Most rivers were flowing over the danger level and authorities said they were busy evacuating thousands of people to higher ground.

At least 6,000 homeless villagers have been given shelter in relief camps set up in schools, officials said.

Officials said more rain was forecast in the next 48 hours and authorities fear the crisis could worsen.

At least 100 more people have died in other parts of the country from house collapses, snake bites or were washed away in the past month.

India's annual monsoon hits on June 1 and retreats in September. It is key to irrigating 60 percent of farmland and to driving economic growth in a nation heavily reliant on agriculture.

But it leaves in its wake massive destruction, killing hundreds of people, destroying homes, crops, roads and bridges every year.

(For the latest Reuters news on India see: in.reuters.com , for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in/.)

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