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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Drought warning adds to India woe
Drought conditions in Gujarat
Mr Singh said vast swathes of India had received insufficient rain
Amid devastating monsoon floods in India's north-east, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said much of the country faces another threat - drought.

Mr Singh told parliament that rains were 25-50% below normal in some parts.

His comments came as rain in Bangladesh and India's north-east showed no sign of abating - Guwahati, capital of Assam state, is the latest to be hit.

And in Bihar, at least 15 people drowned when an overcrowded boat sank on the Gandak river.

Grain stocks

Mr Singh told parliament that vast swathes of northern, western and central India had experienced insufficient rainfall, and that crops could be affected.

He said he had asked India's highest ranking civil servant, cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi, to review the situation every week.

Officials say grain stocks are being increased in areas of low rainfall and measures are being taken to provide adequate drinking water.

"The government shall spare no efforts in providing all possible assistance to people in the eventuality of a drought," Mr Singh said.

At the same time, Bihar and Assam are experiencing their worst floods in 10 years.

More than 300 people have lost their lives in India's floods and more than 19m have been affected.

In Assam alone, more than 10m people are now homeless after the Brahmaputra burst its banks and inundated thousands of villages.

Higher ground

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Guwahati says the city's riverfront and low-lying areas are flooded.

We have asked the army to be in readiness to move in any time
Absar Hazarika,
Guwahati district magistrate

Citizens have been asked to move to higher ground.

"We have been living here for 50 years and never have we seen these kind of floods," businessman Karuna Deka told the AFP news agency.

Silchar, Assam's third largest city, is reported to be knee-deep in water as the river Barak continues to rise.

Those affected by the floods and now living in relief camps around the state have complained of inadequate aid.

In Bihar, West Champaran district magistrate, Rahul Singh, told the BBC that 40 farm labourers were on the boat that sank - 25 swam to safety.

The authorities said 11 bodies had been recovered so far.

In Bangladesh there were reports of tornadoes and torrential rains destroying hundreds of partly submerged homes in the northern districts of Pabna and Rangpur.


SEE ALSO:
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South Asia flood misery spreads
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13 Jul 04  |  In Pictures
Floods - fears of disease grow
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