11 perish in India floods; 7 killed in building collapse

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A flood affected man carries milk containers on a banana raft as members of India's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) ride an inflatable boat to ferry flood to affected people in Gauhati, India.

A flood affected man carries milk containers on a banana raft as members of India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) ride an inflatable boat to ferry flood to affected people in Gauhati, India.

GAUHATI, India: Indian authorities rushed food and drinking water Saturday to thousands of people marooned by monsoon rains and mudslides that left at least 11 dead in the remote northeast.

Residents waded through waist- and knee-deep water in several parts of the Assam state capital, Gauhati, which was hit by nearly 60 millimeters (2.3 inches) of pounding rain on Thursday night. The average four-month monsoon rainfall is 89 centimeters (35 inches).

“Inflatable boats and makeshift banana rafts have become a mode of transport in the heart of Gauhati. This is something I didn’t imagine,” said Rani Das, a researcher who could not reach her office on Saturday.

Loose patches of earth rolled down the hills around Gauhati as light rain continued on Saturday. Authorities closed schools for the day in the city.

India’s Meteorological Department said the rains were caused by a strong monsoon, while other parts of the country were experiencing 30 to 40 percent deficiency in rainfall in June. India’s monsoon season lasts from June to the end of September.

All the 11 deaths in the past two days have been reported from Gauhati. Police said they included a family of three who were buried when a portion of a concrete house caved in on their tin-roofed home early Friday. Another person died in a mudslide and five others were electrocuted.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Assam state’s top elected official, waded through the deluge to reach some of the worst-hit areas, but was booed by residents angry over the lack of food and drinking water.
Elsewhere in Assam state, monsoon rain fed the mighty Brahmaputra and other rivers, flooding at least six of the state’s 27 districts, including vast swathes of crop area.

Old building topples

In the capital, New Delhi, a dilapidated building collapsed on Saturday, killing at least seven people and rescuers were searching for others believed to be trapped.

Police officer Madhur Verma said five survivors have been pulled out so far from the debris. Another two people were believed to be still trapped underneath the toppled four-story 50-year-old structure.
Most homes in the area, inhabited by the poor people, have been built without proper sanctions and using substandard materials, Verma said.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the collapse was triggered by construction work on an adjacent plot.

Building collapses are common in India, where high demand for housing and lax regulations have encouraged some builders to cut corners, use substandard materials or add unauthorized extra floors.

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