Death Toll in Indian Monsoon Rises to 250

Heavy rains kept schools and colleges shut for a third day Wednesday and meteorologists forecast more downpours in India's financial capital, Bombay, as the nationwide death toll rose to more than 250 since the monsoon began in June.

The warnings came as officials in the eastern state of Orissa, on India's opposite coast, said torrential rains there killed at least 20 people, and nine people reportedly died elsewhere in the country.

The deaths in Orissa, which occurred Tuesday, were mostly from landslides or drownings, Orissa's Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal said in a statement.

The nine other deaths included six people who died Tuesday in southern Karnataka state, when a landslide destroyed two homes, nearly wiping out two families, Press Trust of India reported.

There were no new reports of casualties in Bombay, where the latest spell of rains claimed seven lives on Monday, but delays in road, rail and air travel in and out of the city continued to disrupt life.

State meteorologists were warning of heavy rains for the next three days, and Bombay's civic authorities warned residents to only venture outside if necessary.

"We are constantly clearing water-logged roads," said Johny Joseph, Bombay's municipal commissioner. "Drainage is the main problem and our men are on the job."

Fire officials cleared uprooted trees blocking main roads, while owners of flooded shops in low-lying areas opened to check their losses.

"We closed the shop because we had to check our house that was filling up with water," said Praful Patel, who returned to his small grocery store to find that most of the stock kept on lower shelves had been ruined by the flooding.

Bombay routinely floods during the monsoon, which can last until September. Residents have long blamed clogged drains, debris piled on sidewalks and a lax municipal administration.

"Potholed highways slow traffic on a normal day. Even light rainfall floods roads," said exasperated garment businessman Rajesh Nidhodia. "Bombay is one big mess."

The Bombay High Court has told civic authorities to detail what action it plans to take against contractors behind on road and drainage work, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Hearing a petition to implement flood-prevention proposals, Justice R.M. Lodha told civic officials, "Perhaps you have failed to adopt long-term planning measures, which is why the situation was bad."

Authorities say it will take four years to widen drains and pave roads to ensure smooth traffic during the monsoon.

India's national media also criticized the administration. The headline on the front page of The Times of India newspaper read, "Suburbs Sink Again." The Hindustan Times newspaper said simply, "Not Again."