Death toll 28 as floods hit Kashmir

Srinagar - The death toll from severe flooding in Indian-controlled Kashmir has risen to at least 28, as authorities on Friday asked for help from federal rescue officials as relentless rains continue to lash much of the Himalayan region, forcing thousands to abandon their homes in search of shelter.

Officials said that the death toll from flooding and landslides caused by for four days of rain included two bodies recovered after a bus carrying more than 50 members of a wedding party that was swept away into a stream Thursday. Four passengers managed to swam to safety and rescue workers are searching for the others.

The local meteorological office said the heavy rains may ease later Friday.

The Himalayan region has been hit by its worst monsoon flooding in more than two decades. Power and telephone links have been snapped in many areas and supplies of clean drinking water have been hit, officials said.

Soldiers and rescue workers used boats to move thousands of people to higher ground. The public address systems in local mosques were used to warn people in the worst-hit neighbourhoods to move to safety.

Landslides, floods

Officials said at least 100 villages across the Kashmir valley were flooded by overflowing lakes and rivers, including Jhelum river, which was up to 2 metres  above its danger level.

Parts of the main city of Srinagar were also flooded.

At least 300 rescuers, with boats and sophisticated search equipment, from the National Disaster Response Force had arrived in the region, according to Rohit Kansal, a civilian official.

The state government has also started setting up rescue shelters and has set aside 200 million rupees ($3.3m) for relief and rescue efforts, a press release said.

Landslides and floods are common in India during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September. More than 100 people died after a massive landslide hit a village near Pune, a city in western India, recently.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. They have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since winning independence from Britain in 1947.

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