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Death toll from India floods rises to 95, hundreds of thousands evacuated

by Reuters
Saturday, 10 August 2019 11:21 GMT

Flood-affected people are moved to a safer place in Paravur in Ernakulam district in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sivaram V

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Red alerts have been issued in Kerala while flooding in neighbouring Karnataka is said to be the worst in 45 years

* States of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra worst hit by flood

* Kerala to open gates of dam in one of the worst hit districts

* Kochi international airport to be operational by Sunday noon

* Maharashtra-based farmer said no access to basic amenities 

By Jose Devasia and Gopakumar Warrier

KOCHI/BENGALURU, India, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The death toll from floods in India's states of Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra rose to 95, official figures showed on Saturday, as heavy rain and landslides forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes.

Seasonal monsoon rains from June to September are a crucial lifeline for agrarian Indian society, delivering 70% of the country's rainfall, but they also bring in their wake death and destruction every year.

"Our entire village under water for the last eight days but still we haven't got any assistance from the government," said farmer Prashant Lathe, 35, from a village in one of the flood-hit districts of the western state of Maharashtra.

The district has lost access to all basic amenities such as drinking water, power supply, cooking gas cylinder and petrol for running vehicles, Lathe said.

Excessively strong rains can also harm India's farming sector, which employs nearly half of its 1.3 billion people. Lathe said his sugar cane plantation of around four acres was submerged.

In the southwestern state of Kerala, some 42 people died and over 100,000 affected people have been evacuated, the central government's disaster management cell said, after 80 landslides hit the state in two days.

The state was opening the gates of Banasurasagar dam in Wayanad district on Saturday to manage water levels and avoid serious damage.

Last year, more than 200 people were killed and over five million affected in one of Kerala's worst floods in 100 years. Some residents said the sudden opening of dam gates without proper warnings to those living downstream was a big factor in the devastation.

The state's busiest airport, Cochin International Airport, closed since Friday as the taxiway was water-logged, will resume operations from 0630 GMT on Sunday, the airport management said.

In neighbouring Karnataka, home to India's tech hub Bengaluru, some 24 people have died in what chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said on Saturday were the worst floods in 45 years.

Around 1,024 villages have been inundated due to the rains, several dams were reaching their full capacity, and over 200,000 people had been evacuated, he added.

In Maharashtra, home to India's financial capital Mumbai, 29 people have died this week.

The Indian Meteorological Department said heavy to very heavy rain was likely to lash isolated areas of Kerala, parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra, and some southern states might also see extremely heavy rain on Saturday. (Reporting by Jose Devasia in Kochi and Gopakumar Warrier in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai Writing by Promit Mukherjee Editing by Kim Coghill and Stephen Powell)

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