India

Fresh threat of floods in western India

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New Delhi (dpa) - Authorities in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, still coping with the devastation left behind by heavy monsoon showers last week, put out a fresh flood alert Friday as reservoirs filled to the brim after a renewed spell of rain.

Hundreds of people were being evacuated from lowlying areas along the dams and rivers in western Maharashtra, officials said. Thousands of government workers, aided by the army and navy, were working round the clock on rescue and relief operations.

More than 1,000 people died in the state in floods and landslides after the region received record rainfall in a 24-hour period between July 26 and 27.

Reports from districts said there was a severe shortage of drinking water and medicines at some relief camps.

Authorities in the neighbouring state of Karnataka also feared renewed flooding.

However, in Andhra Pradesh state, which also borders Maharashtra, chief minister Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy was preparing to offer ritual prayers to the rain gods, NDTV television network reported.

The reservoirs in Andhra Pradesh are full after five successive years of drought and six senior ministers will be offering prayers at different locations in the state Sunday.

''There is a saying that where the ruler is honest, the rains will be good. Same is the case in Andhra Pradesh. Our chief minister is a simple man which is why the rain gods are being indulgent and the dams are full,'' Andhra Pradesh information minister Shabbir Ali was quoted as saying.

Indian farmers are heavily dependent on the annual monsoon rains. About 60 to 70 per cent of the country's more than a billion population make a living from agriculture and allied sectors, according to official data.

But the annual rains also bring floods, devastating large areas of standing crops, damaging property and causing loss of lives.

More than 1,500 people have died across India in floods and landslides brought on by this year's monsoons. dpa su jh

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