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Villagers return to flood-hit homes

india Updated: Oct 07, 2009 15:46 IST

AP
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Thousands among the legions of southern Indians displaced by a week of flooding trickled back to their homes and farms to survey the damage left by a natural disaster that killed at least 269 people, officials said on Wednesday.

The floods in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states were caused by torrential rains after severe drought. They were the worst in decades and displaced more than 2 million people. The waters started to recede over the weekend as the rain subsided.

In farming village of Talamari in Karnataka, almost all the mud and straw homes of the poorest residents have been washed away. Most of the sturdier homes have been seriously damaged. Ahmer Ali, 28, returned with six family members to find his house virtually destroyed and his rice crop gone.

"We are now waiting for the government to give us some money so we can rebuild our house," he said from the village, about 340 miles (550 kilometers) north of the state capital, Bangalore. Government relief workers and charities have provided food and clean drinking water but no cash, he said.

The floods in the two states have resulted in losses of homes, farms and infrastructure worth over 220 billion rupees ($4.6 billion), authorities say.

Karnataka has been worst hit, with 206 deaths and more than 650,000 displaced and staying in thousands of state-run relief camps, R V Jagdish, a government spokesman said. Hundreds of thousands of others sought refuge with friends and relatives.

In neighboring Andhra Pradesh, 63 people have died and more than a million are still sheltering in relief camps, Dharmana Prasada Rao, the state's revenue minister said, but added thousands have already begun heading back to their homes.

The rains ceased three days ago, and the state governments are assessing the damage and sending medical aid to prevent disease from spreading.

Just weeks ago, most parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were suffering from severe drought. Weather officials say an area of low pressure in the Bay of Bengal caused the sudden, torrential rains. In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, unusually heavy rains have killed at least 23 people over the last 24 hours, mostly due to homes collapsing, officials said on Wednesday.