By Ratnajyoti Dutta
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Floods triggered by heavy rains have inundated nearly 200 villages in northern India, killing at least 21 people and leaving thousands homeless, officials said on Sunday, as forecasts for more rain prompted fresh flood warnings.
The latest rain has caused landslides and floods in many parts of India and neighboring Nepal, where at least 90 people have been killed since Thursday, according to the latest government update. More rain is now forecast in the state of Uttar Pradesh - India's most populous - and Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, resulting in new flood warnings. "Nearly two hundred villages have been hit by the flood which has taken at least 21 lives," said Alok Ranjan, chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh.
The river Rapti that threads through densely populated parts of the state was running above the danger mark, another official said.
India's annual rains have picked up from early August after the worst start in five years for the June-September monsoon season raised fears of widespread drought in the sub-continent.
There were concerns that a slow start to the monsoon season would trim cane output in the world's second-biggest sugar producing nation, but a late revival in rains resulted in higher acreage being planted.
However, fresh floods in North India have now raised fears of damage to the cane crop.
"Sugarcane is at high risk due to floods as water logging can damage the crop," Sudhir Panwar, president of farmers' body Kisan Jagriti Manch said by telephone from Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh.
According to the latest assessment of the Indian Sugar Mills Association, the country's sugar output could rise 4 percent to 25.3 million tonnes in 2014/15, the fifth surplus year in a row, because of higher cane yields in other major producing states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
(Additional reporting by Sharat Pradhan in LUCKNOW; Gopal Sharma in KATHMANDU; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Sophie Hares)