South India Floods Affect Millions, Kill at Least 222

( [email protected] ) Oct 06, 2009 11:05 AM EDT

Days of torrential rain in southern India have left vast tracts of land devastated and displaced million of people, officials said Monday as the death toll from flooding rose to 222.

In Karnataka, the worst-hit of two Indian states, 172 people have been reported dead and more than 50,000 are staying in relief camps, according to government spokesman R.V. Jagdish. Hundreds of thousands more have sought shelter in the homes of friends and relatives.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, state chief minister K. Rosaiah said 50 people have been reported dead and around 1.5 million have been displaced and were sheltering in 100 relief camps.

“We have never experience anything like this before. It is the worst flooding in 100 years,” reported Ambrose Christy, south zonal manager for anti-poverty group Caritas India. “The situation could become even more severe as the rains get worst. If the Krishna River bursts its banks, millions more will be forced from their homes and a huge area of land will be underwater.”

With scores of villages in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka submerged by the floods, whole villages have already been forced to seek shelter in crowded government-run relief camps.

Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service groups, estimated that over 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes due to heavy rains and flooding in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

World Vision, meanwhile, reported that the South India floods have destroyed crops and impacted some 20 million people, with scores of villages cut off.

“What is needed is a massive coordinated response involving the federal and central governments, and local and international NGOs to make sure food aid gets through," commented Dr. Jayakumar Christian, National Director for World Vision India.

World Vision is hoping to raise $2 million to ramp up its response to meet the immediate needs of 100,000 flood survivors who have been driven from their homes into relief camps.

"Rates of malnourishment are already extremely high in India. Almost half of all under-fives are malnourished and these droughts and floods are pushing families to the very edge,” Christian stated.

According to the World Vision leader, the organization is witnessing its development work and efforts to combat poverty set back by years.

"India is now entering a period of severe food vulnerability," he reported.