Raging floods in northern India kill 17, force 2 million to flee inundated villages

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Raging floodwaters triggered by heavy rain in northern India have killed at least 17 people, washed away thousands of homes and forced some 2 million people to evacuate in a 24 hour period, officials said Thursday.

A large swathe of Uttar Pradesh state has been covered by floodwaters spilling over the banks of several rivers that crisscross the region, state spokesman Diwakar Tripathi said. Soldiers and paramilitary troops were working to evacuate people from marooned villages and move them to relief camps in safer areas.

"At least 17 people have died overnight. More than a thousand houses have been washed away. Large areas are under water," Tripathi said.

Northern India has experienced unprecedented rain since August, according to the India Meteorological Department. Most rivers are flowing above the danger mark, including the Yamuna and Ganges that run through Uttar Pradesh.

Temporary shelters and medical facilities were being set up Thursday at relief camps in the state, while army helicopters were dropping food and water packets for people stranded in remote villages, said K.K. Sinha, a relief official.

One of the hardest-hit areas is the industrial town of Moradabad, where some 200,000 people had to be evacuated from the rising water, said Suresh Tomar, a district official.

There was also extensive damage to farmland in the state, with crops worth around 35 billion rupees ($750 million) destroyed, Tripathi said.

More rain was forecast for the coming days and a flood alert has been issued for 18 districts in Uttar Pradesh.

In neighboring Pakistan, monsoon floods have killed more than 1,700 people and damaged or destroyed nearly 1.9 million homes in the past six weeks.