HYDERABAD, India – Forty villagers riding on a truck were swept away by a flooded river and feared dead Sunday in southern India, where monsoon rains have claimed at least 59 lives in the past three days, officials said.
The truck was washed away while it was crossing a flooded bridge in Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh state, police official Mahesh Chadra Laddha said. The road was under nearly six feet of water, he said.
Rescuers have recovered three bodies and were searching for others, Laddha said. Seven people managed to swam to safety, he said.
The area is about 215 miles east of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, he said.
Survivor Lakshmi Narayana, 45, said the truck driver lost control of the vehicle as he tried to drive across the flooded bridge. The villagers boarded the truck after bus services were suspended in the region because of the floods, he said.
Parts of Hyderabad and two other districts of Andhra Pradesh state were inundated when 4.7 inches of rain fell in less than five hours on Friday, said Navin Mittal, a government official. He said it was the heaviest downpour there in eight years.
House collapses have killed 14 people in Hyderabad and 13 in the Krishna district since Friday, state Revenue Minister Dharmana Prasad Rao said Sunday. Another 32 deaths have been reported in neighboring districts lashed by rains overnight, he said.
The state government has opened 85 relief camps for thousands who have been forced to leave their homes, said the state's top elected official, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
Monsoon season, which lasts from June to September, brings rains vital for India's farmers but also massive destruction. Floods, mudslides, house collapses and lightning strikes have killed at least 225 people across the country so far this year.