Floods kill 16, displace thousands in India’s western Maharashtra state

At least 16 people have died in India’s western state of Maharashtra as heavy rains and overflowing rivers swamped five districts, forcing authorities to move more than 140,000 people to safer places, a government official said on Wednesday.

Rivers in the region were flooded as authorities released water from dams that had filled after some districts such as Kolhapur received as much as 670 mm (26.4 inches) of rainfall in a week.

“Reservoirs in these districts are full. If we get more rainfall, then we have no option but to release water in rivers,” said Deepak Mhaiskar, divisional commissioner of Pune region.

The weather department has forecast heavy rainfall in the region in the next three days, prompting authorities to send more rescue teams by air.

Thousands of trucks were stuck on a national highway that connects the financial capital Mumbai to information and technology hub Bangalore, because the road was submerged in few places, Mhaiskar said.

Schools and colleges in the affected districts have been closed since Monday and are unlikely to open this week, said a government official.

Floods in South Asia cause mass displacement and deaths annually, as the region gets seasonal monsoon rains during June-September.

India’s monsoon rains, which deliver more than 70% of the country’s rainfall, are crucial for farm output and economic growth.

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