From: Wasbir Hussain, Associated Press
Published October 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Soldiers Recover More Than 170 Bodies in Flooded Indian State

GAUHATI, India — Soldiers pulled bodies from mud and debris Tuesday after flash flood waters receded in northeastern India's Assam state, where flooding killed 171 people in six days.

"I can confirm 154 dead in the district of Goalpara that came under a sudden wave of flash floods six days ago," said district magistrate Deepak Kumar Goswami on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in Assam, at least 17 people were buried alive by mudslides caused by torrential rains last week, taking the toll to 171 in six days, as unseasonable rains lashed parts of South Asia.

Annual monsoon storms and floods killed 2,208 from June through September throughout the region.

"The devastation has been terrible. Our soldiers are still pulling out bodies from rivers and marshes," said Anup Rana, an army officer engaged in the rescue and relief operations in Assam.

Waters rushing down from the hills of adjoining Meghalaya state caught sleeping villagers by surprise, sweeping away people, huts, cattle, and poultry.

"It came in a flash. The people couldn't react and many were just swept away," rescue worker Babul Das said by telephone in Goalpara, 180 kilometers (110 miles) west of the state capital, Gauhati.

India's Home Minister Shivraj Patil was to visit the flooded areas on Wednesday to determine how much federal aid to give the state.

"We shall be liberal in our relief assistance. I intend on providing cooking utensils and roofing materials to the affected people," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said Tuesday, a day after he visited the areas, where 200,000 people in 182 villages have been affected.

"We have opened 55 relief camps and are providing rice and lentils, besides kerosene oil," said Goswami, the Goalpara district magistrate.

Hundreds of people are still living under makeshift, plastic-covered huts on the national highway, keeping with them any cattle and poultry they could rescue.

"We are now worried about post-flood disease. But, things are under control so far," Goswami said.

Source: Associated Press

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