Half of India has been hit by heavy rains in this year's monsoon, which account for 70% of the country's annual rainfall.

The monsoon hit Kerala in the south of the country before sweeping northwards with rains expected to intensify into July.

As the capital of New Delhi gets ready to embrace the monsoon, authorities set up a 24/7 helpline to deal with health problems exacerbated by the feeble sewerage system in the city.

Farmers, who account for 15% of India's economy, welcomed the rains, however.

In 2012 the harvesting of wheat, cotton, and sugar suffered from the weakest rainfalls in years and farmers were hoping for prolonged rainfall this year to make up for it.

"There has been plenty of rainfall over drought areas of the southern region and even adjoining Maharashtra has received excess splash," Chengal Reddy, a farmers' spokesman, said.

The monsoon usually covers all of India by mid-July.

People walk in a heavy rain shower in the northern Indian hill town of ShimlaReuters
A woman carries her child through a heavy rain showerReuters
Schoolchildren run for shelter in HarwanReuters
Sikh men ride a jeep during a heavy rain shower in the northern Indian city of ChandigarhReuters
Children run for coverReuters
A woman holds an umbrella to shield her children and herself from the rainReuters
Boys play at a sea wall as waves crash over it during a monsoon rain showerReuters
A farmer plants rice saplings in a paddy field in AmritsarReuters
A man takes shelter from the rain under a plastic sheetReuters
People take shelter from the rain under a fishing boatReuters