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Rations airlifted to villagers after floods in eastern India

SHARE Rations airlifted to villagers after floods in eastern India

LALITGIRI, India — Helicopters dropped rations to villagers sheltered in the ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery in eastern India on Monday, trying to help in a region where monsoon floods have forced tens of thousands from their homes.

The two dozen sacks of rice, bread and drinking water, however, were clearly inadequate for the hundreds of refugees living among the brick ruins in Lalitgiri, 40 miles northeast of the state capital, Bhubaneshwar.

Elsewhere, six military helicopters made 30 trips on Monday, delivering 70 tons of emergency food, air force spokesman S.B. Savarkar said.

The floods, caused by two weeks of heavy rain, have killed at least 77 people in Orissa, an eastern state bordering on the Indian Ocean. Residents of an estimated 13,000 villages have fled their homes, said B.B. Harichandan, the state's revenue minister.

Rivers swollen by the rainwater have risen above their banks, destroying millions of acres of rice and vegetable fields and carrying away hundreds of thousands of cattle.

Only tree tops and straw roofs poke out of the muddy floodwaters where villages once were.

Thousands of refugees are living along the highways — almost the only high ground available — in crude tents made of sheets of plastic propped up on bamboo poles. Nearly one million people are living on the rooftops of their homes or in trees. For many, the airlifted supplies are the only means of survival.

With rainfall lessening in some areas, the flood waters have begun to recede. But health officials say the state's medical services are stretched to the limit treating thousands of cases diarrhea and jaundice.

The overflowing rivers have prevented medical teams from reaching many remote villages.