Half a million homeless in India floods, Mumbai hit

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Rescuers in India stepped up efforts on Sunday to help hundreds of thousands of people forced from their homes by floods in a southern state as torrential rain hit the country’s financial capital.

In southern Andhra Pradesh the death toll from three days of monsoon storms rose to 80, officials said, as 18 people drowned, were electrocuted or killed as houses collapsed overnight.

A jeep carrying 12 people was washed away by a swollen stream in Araku village, 540 km (335 miles) northeast of state capital, Hyderabad, late on Saturday.

But relief and rescue operations picked up as rains subsided in most parts of the state. Two airforce helicopters and a dozen speedboats were taking food to nearly 1,000 villages and parts of some towns cut off by the floods.

“Rains are receding. Except in some parts of Telengana, rains are almost over in the state,” said M. Satyakumar, director of the Hyderabad Meteorological Center.

“Over half a million people living in low-lying areas of 12 river front districts have been displaced due to the three-day downpour and flooding,” Ponnala Lakshmaiah, the state’s irrigation minister, told Reuters.

Naval helicopters and coast guard boats were searching for 150 missing fishermen who went to sea last week despite warnings, officials added. Earlier they had said 60 fishermen were missing.

In western Maharashtra, thousands of people were being evacuated from Nanded district, about 650 km (400 miles) east of the state capital, Mumbai, after 25 villages were cut off by heavy rains.

Relief officials said rescuers were using boats to rescue those who had climbed up trees or on to rooftops.

In Mumbai, traffic crawled in the city’s western and northern suburbs which were under two feet of water.

Officials said the city’s suburban trains were running about 15 minutes late and some services had been suspended. Flights were being delayed by up to half an hour.

“The met office has predicted more rains. We are already on alert. Our disaster management team is working to drain out the water,” V.V. Vaidya, the city’s chief disaster management officer told Reuters.

Nearly every year, annual monsoon rains, vital for India’s farmers and overall economic growth, kill hundreds of people. A year ago, floods in Mumbai, India’s richest city, killed hundreds of people and paralysed the city for nearly a week.

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