July 26, 2017 / 7:27 AM / 2 years ago

Rescuers on war footing as flooding hits western, eastern India

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Floods and relentless rain in India’s western state of Gujarat have killed at least 75 people and displaced over 25,000 over the past three weeks, officials said on Wednesday.

Villagers use a boat as they row past partially submerged houses at a flood-affected village in Morigaon district in the northeastern state of Assam, India July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

Monsoon rains have lashed western and eastern India, leaving several states fighting to contain the flood fury that has affected thousands and killed hundreds.

The situation remains critical in Gujarat, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take an aerial survey of his home state on Tuesday to assess the damage.

Mayank Rawal, a senior official in the disaster management department in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s main city, said more than 10,000 people had been moved to higher ground, including 1,000 who were airlifted to safety.

Air force helicopters were carrying out sorties to drop food packets to those stranded.

L.B. Bambhaniya, administrator of flood-ravaged Banaskantha district in Gujarat, said 350 villages had been waterlogged, hitting cotton and groundnut crops.

“I am worried about the damage to the fields... We will have to provide financial support to farmers,” Bambhaniya told Reuters.

In neighboring Rajasthan, a usually arid state, six people were killed in three flood-hit districts.

In India’s eastern state of West Bengal, more than 25,000 people were forced from their homes due to the rains and sudden discharge of water from several dams in neighboring Jharkhand.

West Bengal’s irrigation minister, Rajiv Banerjee, said the Jharkhand government must immediately stop releasing water from dams to prevent water-logging.

“Agriculture was severely hit by the flooding,” he told Reuters.

The waters were receding in northeast India, where at least 105 people had lost their lives due to floods and landslides in the past month that had hit 60 districts across Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur states.

Efforts were under way to drain stagnant water from a national park in Assam that is home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceroses.

Assam Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Keshab Mahanta said the government had launched a massive clean-up to prevent the outbreak of disease.

“Relief and rescue operations are going on in a war footing in the flood ravaged areas,” Mahanta told Reuters.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Outbreaks of diseases such as dengue fever are often a threat in the aftermath of floods. Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water.

A dengue outbreak killed 23 people in the southern state of Kerala in July, a government official said, adding that more than 12,000 people had been infected since May.

India receives 80 percent of its annual rainfall during the monsoon season that runs between June and September.

Additional reporting by Zarir Hussain in Assam, Subrata Nagchoudhury in West Bengal, D.Jose in Kerala, Writing by Rupam Jain, Editing by Douglas Busvine

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