Hundreds die in Indian monsoon

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NEW DELHI (AFP) - Monsoon floods spread across new areas of India, bringing the death toll to 424 yesterday.

The Press Trust of India said 15 people were swept away by floods in the northern state of Punjab - the grain bowl of India - and 10 people died in the adjoining hill state of Himachal Pradesh since Saturday. Five people were killed in Haryana state, which borders Punjab. Haryana state officials said the swollen Ravi and Beas rivers swept over an air force station and submerged more than 25 villages.

In neighbouring Rajasthan, torrential rains caused dams and canals to overflow, inundating roads, farms and towns. In the western coastal state of Gujarat, some 3,000 people were marooned as security forces carried out rescue operations along the Sabarmati river which had overflowed its banks.

Heavy showers continued to lash Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh where army divers and engineers were working to clear a landslide which partly swamped a big hydro-electricity project. More than 1,000 stranded tourists have been evacuated from Himachal Pradesh since the rains started last week.

The monsoon floods, which ravaged eight Indian states and destroyed thousands of homes, farms, railway lines and communications networks, are an annual feature in India, which depends on plentiful rains for a good harvest.

In China, at least seven people were killed during heavy rainfall in the northern Shaanxi province. Some 263,000 people in Shaanxi, one of China's poorest regions, were affected by rainfall which damaged farmland, roads and dikes last week.