Monsoon Rains in India Kill at Least 74

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Heavy monsoon rains have lashed northern India, killing at least 74 people and destroying dozens of poorly constructed buildings, police said Thursday.

All the deaths were reported from Uttar Pradesh state, one of India's poorest, and raise the death toll across the country from this year's monsoon season to more than 300 people.

Monsoon season, which lasts from June to September in India, brings rain vital for the country's farmers but also massive destruction. Floods, mudslides, house collapses and lightning strikes kill hundreds every year.

"The dead included women and children, as most of the fatalities occurred due to the incidents of houses collapsing," said state police spokesman Surendra Srivastava.

One of the worst hit places was the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, where 11.5 inches of rain fell in 24 hours.

The deluge caused the walls of one house to collapse, killing nine members of a singe family, said Srivastava. Four others were also killed in the city.

Schools in Varanasi and the nearby town of Barabanki were closed and the Ganges River was overflowing in some points, said Atul Kumar Gupta, a senior state official. Varanasi is 165 miles southeast of Lucknow, the state capital.

Gupta said families would get $2,350 in compensation for victims of the flooding.

In the town of Sitapur 24 people were killed when 12 buildings collapsed, Mritunjay Rai, a government official told The Associated Press by phone. Sitapur is some 50 miles southwest of Lucknow.

"Two girls were buried alive as their mud house fell on them," Rai said.

In the neighboring state of Bihar, air force helicopters were called in to airlift supplies to thousands of people who were stranded when a river burst its banks, said Disaster Management Secretary Pratayaya Amrit.

A force of 60 soldiers was sent to the area to assist with relief efforts, he said. There were no reports of casualties.

Officials at the meteorological department warned of more flooding in the days to come.

"A similar pressure area exists over the Bay of Bengal. Under these circumstances heavy rains are expected in next couple of days," said L. C. Ram, the director of the office.

In northeastern India, floods Wednesday left nearly 80,000 people stranded and dependent on emergency aid for food and water in India's remote northeast.

Authorities used motorboats to rush aid to flood victims in more than 70 inundated villages on Majuli, one of Asia's largest freshwater islands located in the Brahmaputra River, said A. Baruah, a local government official in the state of Assam.

There have been no deaths reported so far on the island, Baruah said.