Monsoon rains kill 81 in India


Heavy early monsoon rains have killed at least 81 people in India’s western Gujarat state, bringing misery to thousands of people uprooted from their flooded homes, an official said Friday.

Nearly 9,000 people have been evacuated to higher ground in the worst-hit rural areas of Amreli, Rajkot and Bhavnagar districts of Gujarat, which had been suffering from a drought before the rains hit, said Ridhi Butt, a National Disaster Response Force official.

Butt said most of the deaths occurred when people were swept away by flood waters and mudslides, or buried in collapsed houses.

More than 1,000 Hindu pilgrims have been stranded on the mountain paths leading to Hindu shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath in northern Uttrakhand state because of the rains.

The state disaster response force and police are clearing the roads to restore the pilgrimage, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

India’s financial capital of Mumbai was badly hit last week when torrential showers closed trains and led to a breakdown in public services.

The monsoon rains arrived days ahead of schedule in the western and northern parts of India, raising hopes the annual rains may not be as little as predicted by the India Meteorological Department.

The monsoon has covered nearly the entire country delivering 24 per cent excess rainfall so far, flooding parts of Gujarat in western India and Assam state in the northeast, while a swollen river breached its banks in northern Jammu-Kashmir state. However, the weather department said it expected a drier July.