19 Jun 2013

Early monsoons cause havoc in India

5:59 am on 19 June 2013

Early monsoon rains have swollen the Ganges in India, swept away houses, killed at least 60 people and left tens of thousands stranded.

The rains are at least twice as heavy as usual covering the whole country a month faster than normal.

In the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, where at least 60 people had been killed, air force helicopters airdropped commandos to help rescue some of those unable to move because of the floods.

Thirty two camps have been set up to provide food and water for about 5000 pilgrims and tourists caught by the floods while visiting holy sites. The Ganges is sacred to Hindus.

In the eastern state of Orissa, flash floods destroyed at least 678 houses and damaged crops in storage.

Weather department officials said the rains, which were 48% above normal across India by 16 June, are expected to ease in the next week.

So far, the rains have not hit the summer sowing season, as planting of rice, sugar, cotton and other produce is not yet in full swing. About 55% of farmland relies on the monsoon for water.