Flood toll passes 300, more than 1.5 million displaced

Heavy flooding in southern India has claimed more than 300 lives and left at least 1.5 million people homeless, according to authorities, as relief agencies warned of disease outbreaks following the worst flooding in the region in decades.


AFP - The death toll from the worst floods to hit southern India in decades passed 300, officials said Wednesday, as relief efforts struggled to help survivors.

At least 1.5 million people have been displaced in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh after days of torrential rain.

More than 200 people have been killed in Karnataka alone, said H.V. Parashwanath, secretary of Karnataka's disaster monitoring agency.

"There could be 200,000 to 300,000 people in villages where aid has not reached," he said.

Authorities said more than half a million people were in relief camps in Andhra Pradesh, with a further 650,000 in shelters in Karnataka.

Residents who stayed in their homes took refuge on balconies and rooftops, complaining that food and aid had been slow to reach them.

Maheswar, a 46-year-old farmer in the village of Burdipadu in Karnataka, lost all his crops to the floods.

"The government needs to help us. For the next three months, I have nothing to feed my parents, wife or three children," he said.

India's defence ministry said the military had delivered more than 4.5 tonnes (five tons) of food to survivors whose grain stocks have been wiped out.

The floods sent food prices rocketing throughout the region, with rice and sugarcane among the worst-damaged crops.

Tens of thousands of livestock carcasses littered fields and roads.

"The long term impact is what should concern all of us, especially in a year when we were going through a drought," Jayakumar Christian, India director for World Vision, told AFP from Chennai, capital of southern Tamil Nadu state.

"Earlier there was migration due to drought and now there is migration due to monsoon," he said.

Aid workers focused on health risks as drainage systems collapsed, contaminating water supplies and heightening the risk of epidemic.

Christian estimated that around seven million people were affected in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh where major rivers breached their banks last week.

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