Monsoon Floods Hit North India; 28 Dead, Thousands Displaced

Floods triggered by heavy rains in the Himalayas have inundated nearly 1,500 villages in northern India, killing at least 28 people and leaving thousands homeless, officials said on Sunday.

Thousands were marooned in villages across nine districts of Uttar Pradesh state, where the release of water from overflowing dams in neighboring Nepal has added to the impact of the downpours.

A lack of rain earlier in the June-September monsoon season had led to fears of drought, but this month all that has changed.

The latest heavy rains have caused landslides and floods in many parts of India and Nepal, where at least 90 people have been killed since Thursday.

At least 12 people were swept away by torrents in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh, officials said. Another six perished when their boat capsized in the swollen Rapti river.

"The flood situation arose following heavy downpours in Nepal, which led to overflowing rivers which originate in the Himalayan region including Tibet and Nepal," said Alok Ranjan, chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh.

More rain is forecast in Uttar Pradesh and neighboring Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, resulting in new flood warnings.

Three army helicopters were deployed to drop food and water to the people marooned in shelters.

"The state is well equipped with both manpower and resources to meet the current crises and we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the affected people receive prompt relief," Ranjan said.

Earlier there had been concern the slow start to the monsoon would trim cane output in the world's second-biggest sugar-producing nation.

Now the floods in Uttar Pradesh have raised fears of damage to the cane crop, as 0.6 million hectares of arable lands have been submerged.

"Sugarcane is at high risk due to floods as waterlogging can damage the crop," Sudhir Panwar, president of the farmers' body Kisan Jagriti Manch said by phone from Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh.

According to the Indian Sugar Mills Association, sugar output could rise 4 percent to 25.3 million tons in 2014/15, because of higher cane yields in the other major producing states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

VOA News / Aug. 18, 2014 08:05 KST