Flood swamps Asia's largest freshwater island

/ Source: The Associated Press

Flood waters began to recede Wednesday in northeastern India after heavy rains and floods inundated much of the region, displacing about 3 million people, authorities said.

But large portions of the state of Assam were still inaccessible and rescue workers continued to try to reach marooned villagers across the state.

Nearly half of Asia's largest freshwater island, Majuli in the Brahmaputra river, was submerged, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded, said L. Chagsan, a local official.

Roughly 30,000 people had to leave their homes on Majuli, a 163-square mile island, and rescue workers were evacuating those who couldn't make it to higher ground after the banks of the Brahmaputra river burst, he said.

"Majuli is vulnerable anyway, but the breach in the embankment has come as a cause for concern," he said. "Army troopers are engaged in rescuing marooned people, using inflated boats."

More than 10 million people have been displaced by floods since July in Assam state. Over 9,000 of Assam's 23,000 villages have been submerged by floods, officials said.

More than 60 people have died in the floods since July, 12 of them in the past week, local officials said. In southern Assam's Cachar district, two people were electrocuted Tuesday after flood waters uprooted power transmission towers, Chagsan said.

Bhumidhar Barman, a senior government minister, said officials have opened more than 500 relief camps since July, "but thousands are staying in makeshift shelters on higher ground near their villages and towns."

After the rains stopped in mid-August, the waters of the Brahmaputra, the region's main river, and its tributaries receded. But heavy rains in the past week have led to fresh floods, displacing more than 3 million people.

There was no rain in most of Assam on Tuesday or Wednesday.

During the last major floods in 2004, more than 200 people died in the state.

Monsoon rains usually hit India from June to September. They are vital to farmers but are also deadly. During this year's monsoon season, more than 2,200 people have been killed by flooding, collapsing houses and other rain-related incidents across India.