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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Deadly flood sweeps Indian site
Flooding in Assam
Assam's chief minister has called for emergency cash for floods there
At least 17 people have been killed after a flash flood swept through a construction site in India's northern state of Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday.

An early morning downpour triggered the flood in Shilagarh village, near the summer resort of Kullu, about 400km (250 miles) north of Delhi.

Police said up to 400 workers were asleep in shanties at the site and it was earlier feared the death toll was much higher.

There are still reports of missing workers, but the BBC's Asit Jolly says the chief minister's office now believes the death toll may not exceed 35.

The flood occurred as the north-western state of Assam, which has been devastated by monsoon rains, asked the federal government for emergency funds.

Washed away

In a statement to the Himachal Pradesh state assembly, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh expressed his shock at the flash flood disaster and promised all possible help for those affected.

He told journalists the flood had caused havoc in the remote region.

"Supplies of blankets, essential rations, shrouds for the dead and money to provide immediate relief has been sent," he said.

The migrant workers, from Nepal and the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, were working on the Parvati hydroelectric project, one of the largest in Asia.

A bridge connecting the disaster site to the rest of the state had also been swept away, state government officials said.

Police said villagers had reported seeing bodies floating down the Parvati river.

Kullu is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas and is popular with Western tourists.

Urgent supplies

Meanwhile in Assam, chief minister Tarun Gogoi sent a letter to Delhi pleading for emergency funds to tackle some of the worst flooding in 50 years.

"There may be further devastation in the coming days because flood-management structures throughout the state have been damaged," his letter warned.

The minister called for the urgent supply of tarpaulins, water purifying tablets, mosquito nets and utensils.

Most of the 78 flood-related deaths confirmed in India have occurred in Assam, where up to four million people have been displaced.

A further 2.5 million have been marooned by overflowing rivers in Bangladesh, where the official death toll is 154.

India's eastern state of Bihar has more than one million people affected by flooding. The state has lost four million rupees ($85,500) worth of crops.

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