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Hi Pakistan, Pakistan - Sep 17, 2003

Headline: Eight million affected by floods in India -- Detail Story

NEW DELHI: Nearly 30 more deaths were reported on Wednesday from floods inundating northern and eastern India and affecting millions of people, as swollen rivers hovered around danger levels in non-stop rain.

In Uttar Pradesh, officials reported 22 more flood-related deaths to take the toll to around 230 since the onset of the monsoon in early June.

Sixteen people died when two houses collapsed in rains in the districts of Etah and Mainpuri, while six others were washed away in fast-flowing rivers.

More than 4,000 houses have collapsed so far in Etah alone.

Officials in Lucknow said floodwaters spread to new areas on Tuesday as torrential rains added to the levels of already monsoon-swollen rivers in Uttar Pradesh.

India's Central Water Commission in its latest warning on Wednesday said the mighty Ganges river was rising again in the districts of Ghazipur and Ballia, and was flowing above the official danger mark at some other points.

Two other rivers, the Sai and Sharda, were also in spate, threatening towns and districts of Fatehpur, Ankinghat and Paliakala, in Uttar Pradesh, commission officials said in New Delhi.

Some 2.5 million people in 4,583 Uttar Pradesh villages have been affected by the floods, which have washed away 700,000 hectares of prime farm land.

The state government has set up 746 makeshift camps for homeless people and deployed 3,694 boats to help those stranded, officials said.

The situation turned grim in the neighbouring state of Bihar on Wednesday as the Ganges touched a record high in the districts of Kahalgaon and Bhagalpur while other key rivers were also in spate.

The flood death toll in Bihar rose to 164 after five people drowned in the inundated districts of Vaishali and Purnia in the past 24 hours, officials said.

Around 5.5 million people of 3,977 villages dotting 23 districts of the state have been hit by the floods, the state government said in a statement on Wednesday.

Crops across 375,000 hectares have been destroyed, it said, as television stations reported that marooned people were running out of food as state-doled relief was stretched thin.

Muslims joined Hindus in religious congregations in Patna to pray for mercy from the non-stop deluge, but the weather department warned the rains would continue for some time.

Central Water Commission officials painted a grim picture of the situation in Katihar district, where both the Ganges and Kosi were rising alarmingly.

Rivers such as Sone, Gandak, Burhigandak and Pupun too were rising, the federal agency said.

Military helicopters raced over Bihar, airlifting people to safety and dropping cooked food and medicines, while army motor-boats joined the mammoth rescue operations in the districts of Munger, Vaishali, Saran and in Patna's submerged suburbs.

Officials in the flood-hit district of Malda, in nearby West Bengal state, sounded an "extreme danger signal" on Wednesday as the river Fulhar swamped areas in the previously unaffected district of Harishchandrapur.

Malda district officials said Fulhar waters gushed into inhabited areas after a brimming reservoir sprung a huge leak on Wednesday.

India is witnessing one of the wettest monsoons in 25 years and although the bountiful rains are expected to boost the economy, it has hit hard flood-prone regions in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as well as Orissa and West Bengal.

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