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More than 220 people have been killed and more than 1.5 million others have been displaced by massive floods which have devastated parts of Southern India in the past five days.  

Days of torrential rains eased Monday in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states, but not before they had submerged hundreds of villages, caused widespread havoc.  Authorities are coping with the worst flooding in decades in this southern region.

With roads swept away, helicopters and boats have been deployed to rescue people stranded on roof tops or marooned in their homes. The army and air force joined the rescue effort. But there are fears that many people may still be stranded in villages which have not yet been accessed. 

Authorities have established hundreds of relief camps to house the displaced people.  Medical teams are trying to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.  Food packets and water is being dropped in remote areas. 

The flooding has hit a region which, until days ago, was coping with one of the worst droughts in recent times.

The secretary of Karnataka's Natural Disaster Monitoring Center, H.V. Parashwanath, tells VOA the flooding is of unprecedented magnitude, because it has swept across a region which usually receives scanty rainfall.

"It was a totally drought hit area all these days," said Parashwanath.  "It is totally unexpected.  As per our information, in many of these places they have not seen these types of rains for the last 100 years."

Weather officials say the intense rains were caused by a deep depression in the Bay of Bengal. The flooding worsened because authorities released water from rain-swollen reservoirs and dams in both states to prevent them bursting. 

Karnataka state has suffered heavier loss, compared to Andhra Pradesh.

The damage is extensive.  More than a quarter-million homes have been destroyed.  Livestock has perished and crops, including rice and sugar cane, have been destroyed across vast tracts of land.  Officials say they will need millions of dollars to rebuild the rural regions which have borne the brunt of the flooding.

The head of India's ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, and Home Minister P. Chidambaram traveled to the region and surveyed the damage from the floods on Monday.