16 Dead, 220,000 Stranded in Flooding in Eastern India

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Monsoon flooding has killed at least 16 people and left more than 220,000 marooned in villages in eastern India as incessant rains caused a river to breach its banks in several places, an official said Saturday.

The government of Orissa state was using motorized boats to rescue people, Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathi told reporters.

So far, 180,000 people have been evacuated to relief camps since heavy monsoon rains caused the Mahanadi river to overflow its banks, leaving 220,000 still marooned, he said.

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Two Indian air force helicopters were dropping packets of food to villagers in the flooded villages where people were stranded, Tripathi said, adding that the state has requested three more helicopters from the national government.

The flooding has killed at least 16 people and affected huge swathes of 17 out of 30 districts in Orissa, he said.

The new flooding comes just a month after the monsoon-swollen Kosi river, a Ganges tributary that flows from Nepal to India, burst its banks and submerged nearly 1,000 villages in the impoverished northern Indian state of Bihar, killing at least 48 people and driving more than a million others from their homes.

The annual monsoon season, which runs from June to September, brings rains that are vital to agriculture in South Asia but also can cause massive destruction.