Floods Kill Hundreds in South Asia, Officials Say

Jhumur Deb
170823-IN-floods-620.jpg Villagers attempt to cross flood waters with the help of rope and empty barrels next to a washed away portion of a bridge at Palsa village in Bihar state, India. Aug. 18, 2017.

Widespread floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal have killed more than 800 people and displaced almost 24 million others, officials said Wednesday.

The eastern Indian state of Bihar was hit hardest – more than 250 people have died and nearly 10 million have been left homeless. In Assam, more than 150 people died and about 1.6 million people have been displaced, while 52 people have been killed in West Bengal, according to figures released by the state governments.

In Bangladesh, almost half of the country’s 64 districts have been affected by the flooding that has been described as the worst in 100 years. More than 120 people died during the last 10 days, officials said.

Meanwhile in Nepal, more than 140 people are confirmed dead and 38,000 families have been affected by the floods.

“Every year we face this ordeal during the monsoon season. But this year, the floods have been too severe. And it seems the government has no clue how to tackle the natural disaster,” Mukut Ali, a farmer from Assam who lost his home to flooding last week, told BenarNews.

“Embankments are getting breached daily and the swelling waters of the Brahmaputra River is destroying village after village,” Ali, 52, said while pointing toward the water-logged plains in the distance. Brahmaputra, one of the major rivers of Asia, flows through China, India and Bangladesh.

Ali, who is living in a makeshift camp in Bhuragaon village, about 150 km (93 miles) from state capital Guwahati, said the floods had destroyed his thatched home and farmland.

“We will try rebuilding our home once the flood waters recede,” Ali said.

The floods severely impacted Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to two-thirds of the world’s endangered one-horned rhinos. Almost 140 animals, including seven rhinos, two elephants and a Bengal tiger have been killed because of flooding, the government said in a statement.

Assam loses almost 8,000 hectares of farmland annually to flooding and erosion, according to government data. The state’s disaster management agency said 32 people died because of flooding in 2012, 44 in 2014, 64 in 2015 and 140 in 2016.

“We are providing relief material to affected people on a war footing. We have also approached the central government in New Delhi for additional funds for relief and rehabilitation,” Assam Water Resources Minister Keshab Mahanta told BenarNews.

Flooding blamed on government failure, erosion

Analysts said successive governments failed to tackle the annual problem of flooding and erosion in the ecologically fragile region of eastern India.

“This year’s flood is possibly the worst in three decades. The government needs to chalk out a long-term plan to tackle the swelling waters of the Brahmaputra River during the monsoon season,” Bibhan Talukdar of Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based environmental NGO, told BenarNews.

In Bangladesh, where flooding has affected almost 6 million people, aid workers said they were running short of crucial supplies required to protect people from disease as water levels begin to recede.

“The need is huge and our resources are limited. We cannot respond to all of what people require in this situation,” said Najibullah Hameem, chief of UNICEF in Bangladesh, according to The Guardian.

“In terms of water level, the situation is improving but there might be rain again, and if so the waters will go up again,” Hameem said, adding that medical issues and diseases are bound to pose a threat.

Mark Pierce, director of Save the Children in Bangladesh, warned that officials could face a humanitarian crisis after the floods damaged more than half a million homes and over 400,000 hectares of farmland.

“The sheer scale of this crisis means there still isn’t enough food or clean drinking water,” Pierce told The Guardian. “We’re doing all we can to help, but much more assistance is urgently needed.”


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