Image: Flood victims wait for food
Mahesh Kumar  /  AP
Flood victims receive food at a relief center in Vijayawada, India, on Thursday.
updated 10/8/2009 10:22:38 AM ET 2009-10-08T14:22:38

Millions of poor villagers across southern India are facing an imminent food shortage following months of intense drought and recent devastating floods, aid agencies warned Thursday.

The worst floods to hit the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in a century have killed about 280 people, destroyed or washed away millions of acres of cropland and contaminated grain stocks in millions of homes.

"Floods and drought have set back India's fight against poverty by years," said Jayakumar Christian, director of World Vision India, an aid agency working in the region.

The state government of Andhra Pradesh, one of India's traditional rice-bowls, said food grain production in the state was expected to plummet by more than 900,000 tons due to the floods.

"Rice and other crops in an area of 260,000 hectares (642,000 acres) have been destroyed," state agriculture minister N. Raghuveera Rao said.

Wave of migration?
The floods came at a critical time when many farmers had sowed their winter crops and much of this has been washed away or damaged, Rao said.

The government has not announced plans to help residents deal with food shortages.

The were concerns among aid workers that the damage would likely set off a wave of migration to nearby towns and cities as farm workers, whose homes were destroyed and farmlands unfit for cultivation, tried to earn a living.

Video: Displaced

Aid agency ACT International has appealed for support for relief operations in the region, saying it was at risk of severe shortages due to the floods.

"India is entering a period of severe food vulnerability," Christian said by telephone from Bijapur in northern Karnataka.

At least 220 people were killed in Karnataka and another 63 in Andhra Pradesh. More than 1.5 million people in relief camps across both states were beginning to trek back to their homes as the skies cleared after nearly a week of torrential downpours.

"Everything we owned is destroyed," wailed Anjanamma, an impoverished farm worker in Chickmanchal village in northern Karnataka.

She said the family's annual stock of rice and lentils were soaked and inedible.

More on: India

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Photos: Flood misery in southern India

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  1. Floodwaters bog down traffic beside a bridge under construction after heavy rains swamped Mumbai, India's financial capital, on Monday, Oct. 5. The flooding has left 2.5 million people homeless in southern India and swamped millions of acres of cropland, prompting worries of a fall in sugar output. (Punit Paranjpe / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A home lies in ruins after flooding in Siraguppe village, in North Karnataka state, about 300 miles from Bangalore on Oct. 5. (Jagadeesh Nv / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Flood victims wait for trains or take shelter at a train station as water recedes in Kurnool, about 130 miles from Hyderabad on Oct. 5. "These are the worst floods in 100 years," said Dharmana Prasada Rao, Andhra Pradesh province's minister for revenue and relief. (Mahesh Kumar A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Flood victims clean out their houses as water recedes in Kurnool on Oct. 5. (Mahesh Kumar A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A schoolgirl braves heavy rain in Mumbai on Oct. 5. (Rajanish Kakade / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. People swim in a river swollen by flooding in Kurnool district near Hyderabad on Oct. 4. (Mahesh Kumar A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Relief materials are loaded into an Indian Air Force helicopter in Hubli on Oct. 4 for distribution in Bijapur district in North Karnataka, about 370 miles from Bangalore. Relief officials used helicopters and boats to drop off rations and plastic sheets to marooned villagers. (Jagadeesh Nv / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Garlapadu village lies under water on Oct. 4. The area is about 110 miles from Hyderabad. Officials said vast areas of agricultural land, including sugarcane and paddy fields, were flooded. (Mahesh Kumar A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. People are rafted through Kudal village in the western Indian state of Goa on Oct. 3. Throughout India, officials and relief agencies said flood victims were being sheltered in more than 1,200 temporary camps. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Part of the Raichur district in the southern state of Karnataka lies flooded on Oct. 3. A disaster management official overseeing relief operations told Reuters that some 2 million people had been made homeless in the state. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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