Indian troops rescue flood-hit villagers from trees

GARBADA, India, July 3 (Reuters) - Indian troops on Sunday rescued villagers perched in trees to escape swollen rivers in India's western Gujarat state where severe flooding has left 127 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

"We screamed out when we saw the soldiers, asking them to save us," said Deepak Parmar, a labourer in Garbada village, 95 km (59 miles) south of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city.

Troops saved at least 100 people in Garbada using rubber dinghies. Some soldiers also swam to the roofs of flooded houses and to trees to bring people to safety.

"The houses were submerged and it was very tough to locate everyone. Some were found in an unconscious state," Colonel Manoj Kumar, who headed the rescue operation, said.

Across Gujarat, roofs of submerged houses could be seen from the air, surrounded by vast areas of brownish flood waters, though levels were receding in many areas on Sunday as monsoon rains eased.

There are widespread complaints about lack of food and drinking water and a poor response from state authorities. Prices of milk and vegetables have also soared.

"For the past eight days, we have not got food. The government has not done anything for us," a drenched and exhausted Ambabhai (eds: one name), a widow whose teenaged daughter is missing in the floods, said in Garbada.

Rescued by the army and placed in a primary school, now being used as a relief center, Ambabhai said once she regained her strength, she would look for her daughter.

The Gujarat government said it was doing its best.

"Every needy person will be given what they need," Gujarat government spokesman Kaushik Patel said without elaborating.

Air force helicopters had resumed drops of food and medicines on Sunday after bad weather hampered relief efforts on Saturday.

As the state -- one of the richest in India -- struggled to cope with the widespread flooding, businessmen said industrial production in many areas had come to a halt.

An official of the Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimated losses were about 20 billion rupees ($460 million).

India's monsoon season, which runs from June to September, causes flooding every year, killing hundreds of people.

The monsoon is also causing havoc in neighbouring Bangladesh. Parts of the capital Dhaka are flooded, clogging traffic in the morning rush hour on Sunday, a working day in the predominantly Muslim country.

The government secretariat and the main commercial centre was under knee-to-waist deep water, officials said.

Hundreds of stalled vehicles were also disrupting traffic in the city of 10 million, which has a poor drainage system.

About 150 mm (six inches) of rain had fallen since midnight on Saturday and more was expected over the next two days, an official at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department said.

Floods killed more than 1,000 people and left about 10 million homeless in July to September last year. ($1 = 43.50 rupees) (Additional reporting by Nizam Ahmed in DHAKA)


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