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Devastating India floods leave 95 dead, millions homeless

Story highlights

  • At least 95 people dead, almost 2 million others forced from their homes
  • Indian state of Assam in the northeast is the most affected area
  • It is considered the worst flooding since 2004
  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has committed $90 million for relief effort

Flooding described by India's prime minister as the worst in recent times, has left at least 95 people dead and almost 2 million others homeless in the country's remote Assam state.

The Brahmaputra river overflowed during monsoon rains over the past week, flooding more than 2,000 villages and destroying homes in the northeast of the country, officials said.

Most of the dead were swept away by the fast-flowing water, while 16 were reported to have been buried by landslides caused by the heavy rains.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists Monday that almost half a million people were living in relief camps, and the remaining of the displaced were staying with relatives or living in the open, using tarpaulin sheets for shelter.

Sabir Ali, who lives in one of the affected villages, had to move his family to higher ground with only what they could carry.

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"I am stuck. How will I survive? I've been forced to move to railways tracks with my children," he told CNN-IBN.

But water levels have begun to recede, and thousands have returned to damaged homes. A report issued on Tuesday lowered the number of evacuees to 370,000.

Assam's State Disaster Management Authority reported that at least 14 people are missing.

The agency reported that flooding had begun as early as June 24 in some areas and affected all of Assam's 27 districts. It is considered the worst flooding the state has seen since 2004. Assam's river island of Majuli experienced its worst flooding since 1950.

Prime Minister Singh and Sonia Gandhi of India's ruling Congress party flew over the flooded areas to survey the damage. Singh announced that an initial 5 billion rupees (US$90 million) would be given in emergency funds to help with recovery efforts.

"I have witnessed the extensive damage that the floods have caused. The people of Assam are facing one of the worst floods in recent times," Singh said in a prepared statement.

After his tour of the affected districts, Singh said military helicopters were dropping food packets and drinking water to marooned people, and soldiers were using speedboats to rescue villages from rooftops.

"Once we have completed rescue and relief operation, our focus will shift to restoration of the damaged infrastructure," Singh said.

Large swaths of cropland have been affected by the flooding, and a railway line has been severely damaged by landslides.

Every year the monsoon dumps heavy rains across India, and every year it claims lives. The total number of deaths throughout India attributed to monsoon season this year has reached 236.

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