LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - Heavy rains and floods in India have killed about 200 people in the last three days, officials said, as authorities struggled to rescue almost half a million people marooned in the country's east.
In Uttar Pradesh at least 100 people were killed since Saturday, as heavy monsoon rains caused rivers to burst their banks, sweeping away houses.
Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state with 170 million people, and also one of the most flood-prone regions in the country. Heavy flooding kills hundreds every year in the state.
"Most of the deaths occurred on account of house collapses or trees crumbling," G.K. Tandon, a senior government official said.
About 50 people died in Himachal Pradesh when houses collapsed in heavy weekend rains, killing those inside. Some victims were swept away by flood waters, an official said.
In Orissa, more than half a million people fled their homes when large parts of the state were flooded after authorities were forced to open sluice gates of a dam on the Mahanadi river due to heavy rains.
The rising waters of the Mahanadi and its tributaries broke through mud embankments and swamped hundreds of villages in the coastal region.
At least 29 people have been killed and 300,000 rescued so far, but officials said another half a million people were still marooned.
"Relief officials have not been able to reach many villages as the road links are cut off and boats cannot be used in the swift river current," G.V. Venugopala Sarma, a senior government official told Reuters. "It is quite a serious disaster."
The deaths have raised the flood-related death toll to 1,088 since June this year, officials said.
Television pictures showed hungry children rushing towards food packets dropped by helicopters on a small patch of dry land.
Hundreds of villagers were seen waving at passing helicopters from rooftops, signalling they wanted food.
Monsoon rains and flooded rivers have brought huge devastation across South Asia this year, killing at least 1,500 people, mostly in India and Nepal.
Authorities in Bihar are struggling to cope with floods this year, after the Kosi river broke a dam in Nepal and devastated villages downstream in India.
At least 14 people drowned late on Sunday in Bihar's flood-hit Supaul district after a boat they were travelling in overturned.
Authorities said they were starting special schools in dozens of relief camps for children who have missed classes for weeks.
At least 100,000 ha (250,000 acres) of farmland have been destroyed by floods in Bihar.
The monsoon usually hits India on June 1 and retreats in September, but it leaves in its wake massive destruction, killing hundreds of people, destroying homes, crops, roads and bridges every year.