Monsoon rains kill 8, leave hundreds of thousands stranded in Kashmir

At least eight people died after heavy monsoon rains as the flood waters started receding in the past three days in India's part of Kashmir. More than 200 villages inhabited by thousands of people were cut off by the waters, officials said Monday.

Two villagers were swept away early Monday by strong currents in the flooded Anantnag region north of Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, said police Deputy Inspector-General Hemant Lohia.

A day earlier, six members of a family, including two children, were killed when their house collapsed due to rains in the state's Kathua district. One person was rescued from the debris, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The annual rains, which begin in June and generally end in September, have killed more than 800 people this year across India, with most deaths blamed on drowning, landslides, house collapses, or electrocution. However, many areas do not keep accurate death tolls, and the total number of people killed is likely much higher, AP reports.

Flooding and landslides caused by the rains cut the Indian part of the main highway linking Kashmir with the rest of the country and left thousands stranded.

Rains lashed other parts of the country over the weekend, although Kashmir was the worst hit as the monsoon worked its way north across the subcontinent.

As the rains eased Sunday, authorities in Kashmir ordered schools and colleges in the Himalayan region closed for two days and moved patients from the flooded Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar.

With hundreds of thousands of people trapped across the region, soldiers used boats to bring food to residents of nearly 100 marooned villages and to evacuate the sick and elderly, said Col. Hemant Juneja, an army spokesman.

Sandbags were also being brought in to help reinforce river banks because more rain was expected later Monday, officials said.

The rains also have disrupted Kashmir's annual wedding season. Hundreds of marriages have been postponed and local newspapers are carrying notices daily about canceled ceremonies and parties.

Many have been called off because guests can't get to the ceremonies, but others are being canceled because washed out or flooded roads have disrupted supplies of chicken and mutton _ essential ingredients of Kashmiri wedding feasts.

"We have not directly been affected by flood waters but we had to cancel the marriage ceremony as there is a scarcity of mutton and chicken," said Raouf Khan, a resident of Srinagar. He was to be married on Sept. 6, but now he and his family are considering new dates.

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