updated 6/2/2006 2:27:18 PM ET 2006-06-02T18:27:18

Heavy monsoon downpours across India killed at least 38 people and forced thousands into makeshift relief camps this week as the seasonal rains struck days earlier than expected, officials said Friday.

Rains damaged homes and destroyed farmland in the southern state of Kerala where 21 people have died in flooding and collapsed buildings since the deluge began May 25, 10 of them since Wednesday, said P.K. Rajendran, the state revenue minister. Hundreds of people were living in relief camps after flooding wrecked their homes.

The annual rains, which have been moving up the coast since hitting Kerala, arrived Tuesday in the western state of Maharashtra, 10 days ahead of schedule, killing at least 16 people there over the past four days.

Intermittent showers on Friday continued to lash Bombay and other parts of Maharashtra state. However, millions of residents were relieved to find normal train and bus services restored in Bombay, India's financial and entertainment hub, after a day of massive disruptions.

Such disruptions during the four-month monsoon are not unusual in the city of 16 million people. But many there were angry on Thursday that Bombay wasn't prepared for the deluge, given last year's monsoon chaos.

Last July, record rains turned streets into rivers, and hundreds of people died trapped in cars submerged in water or suffocated under landslides that washed away shanties. The city was largely cut off from the rest of India by the flooding.

This year's monsoon also struck northeast India days ahead of schedule, and an elderly person was swept away and drowned Thursday in the Tinsukia district of Assam state as flash floods engulfed more than 100 villages, a water resources department official said in Gauhati, Assam's capital. He requested anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

More than 2,500 people were evacuated to makeshift government relief camps in the central Assam district of Nagaon, the official said.

Assamese authorities were also on alert for flooding in Kaziranga National Park, home to the world's highest concentration of one-horned rhinoceros, estimated at around 1,700, ranger D. D. Boro said.

"The rhinos and other animals have not yet moved out of the 166 square mile park to higher ground," Boro said.

In 2004, more than 200 people died in Assam and over 10 million were forced by flooding into relief camps.

Meanwhile, strong winds and rain not related to the monsoon killed at least 19 people in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, said police spokesman Surendra Srivastava on Friday. Most of those who died were killed when houses collapsed.

The latest deaths brought to 31 the number of people killed by the heavy weather in Uttar Pradesh in the past two days. The monsoon is expected to hit Uttar Pradesh later this month.

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