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October 6, 2009

India's drought turns to record floods

India's drought turns to record floodsWhile the world's attention is focused on the disaster zones of Samoa and Sumatra, India has been gripped by the worst floods on record.

The Indian authorities are continuing relief efforts in the country's south where about 250 people have died as a result of the flooding.

Some areas have been hit by the highest water levels in more than 100 years.

The Krishna River has overflowed, leaving large parts of the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andra Pradesh submerged.

In a dramatic and cruel turnaround, some of these areas had been enduring the worst drought in 40 years and now are experiencing the worst flood levels in more than a century so they have gone from one to another very, very quickly.

In a cruel twist of fate farmers who had been walking around in dusty fields, now face the prospect those fields have been pushed away by such a large volume of water coming through.

Whole villages are cut off, with authorities estimating between 1.5 million to 2.5 million people are displaced.

Particularly in the areas of Andhra Pradesh, where resources are limited, there is not a lot of help for such a large number of people who are now stranded in many remote parts of those states.

While both large cities and smaller villages have been affected, the biggest problems are in the rural areas because of the isolation and the quality of the buildings there.

A lot of those homes and farm buildings are of limited quality mud brick, so people have not been able to get up onto rooftops and seek shelter as others have in more established towns.

Officials are still at the stage of trying to assess the damage in some areas and trying to understand just how widespread the flooding is before being able to get help into many of the worst affected regions.

Television news services are showing members of the military and emergency services in some areas in boats trying to provide assistance.

But just the sheer scale of trying to find shelter for at least 1.5 million people is huge, as is trying to get food to people.

Some temporary rallying points and camps have been set up but the vast majority of people in many of the worst affected areas are battling on their own.

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