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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Flood-hit Indian states brace for more monsoon rains, 532 killed

By Atul Prakash Washington Post

India’s flood-hit areas are forecast to receive heavy rains this week, with 532 people losing their lives so far across the nation during the monsoon season and hundreds of thousands staying in temporary relief camps.

The northeastern state of Assam has been among the worst-hit regions, with rains affecting 2.5 million people, destroying homes and infrastructure, and delaying sowing of crops such as rice. Drowning and landslides have killed 121 people in the state alone since April 6, according to a home ministry bulletin.

Monsoon rains cause the death of hundreds of people in India every year, but the rainy season has been particularly devastating for the hilly states of Assam and Himachal Pradesh this year. About 233,000 people are still in relief camps, with over two dozen teams of the National Disaster Response Force operating in 27 flood-affected districts of Assam to conduct rescue and relief operations.

Despite the monsoon bringing floods in several areas, it’s one of the most important seasons for farmers in a country that’s highly dependent on agriculture. The progress of the current season, where rains are 7% below normal for now, will determine crop production in the coming months and the outlook for inflation, which surged 7% in May from a year earlier.

India’s grappling with high food prices after unprecedented heat waves this year damaged some crops, prompting it to curb wheat exports, a move that rattled global markets. It’s the world’s second-biggest grower of wheat, rice and sugar, and the top importer of palm, soybean and sunflower oils.

The Indian air force has deployed 11 aircraft to rescue people and distribute relief materials, while the army has sent its engineering task force to help evacuations, according to the bulletin. The floods have affected about 229,000 hectares (566,000 acres) of farmland and damaged about 135,000 homes.

Several states in India, including Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala, are expected to get heavy rains for at least five days from Monday, according to the India Meteorological Department. The monsoon is forecast to be normal overall for a fourth year, the weather bureau has said.