Floods in northern India sweep away homes, crops

PATNA, India (Reuters) - Unusually heavy monsoon rains over northern India have flooded villages, leaving more than half a million people homeless and submerging crops in a key sugar producing region, officials said on Monday.

Torrential rains have lashed the impoverished and densely populated state of Bihar since Friday, causing the Gandak river to overflow and sweep away hundreds of homes and destroy 30,000 hectares of rice, maize and sugarcane.

In neighboring Uttar Pradesh, at least 50,000 hectares of were under water, mainly in the sugar cane-growing western region, Relief Commissioner K.K. Sinha said, adding the government was assessing how much of crop had been lost.

Local television showed villagers wading through chest-deep water, carrying cots, goats and children in their arms. Weather officials have predicted more heavy rains in Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s top cane-producing state and any output loss would reduce sugar supply in India, the world’s top consumer and second-largest producer of the commodity.

Sugar industry officials said it was early to judge the impact of the rains on cane yields. “We have to wait for some days before saying anything,” said Shyam Lal Gupta, secretary general of the Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association. The government did not say how many people have been killed in the recent flooding. Floods in India kill 1,793 people each year, on an average, and cause losses of $575 million each year, including damaging crops in 3.7 million hectares. [ID:nSGE64I0PG] (Reporting by Reuters reporter in PATNA; additional reporting by Alka Pande in LUCKNOW; writing by C.J. Kuncheria, editing by Miral Fahmy)