Heavy monsoon floods displace 19 mn people in India, B'desh | lucknow | Hindustan Times
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Heavy monsoon floods displace 19 mn people in India, B'desh

Heavy rains have washed away homes, crops and cows, leaving villagers perched in treetops or on roofs as the death toll rises from monsoon rains across northern India and Bangladesh.

lucknow Updated: Aug 04, 2007 09:30 IST

Torrents of water washed away homes, crops and cows, leaving hungry and frightened villagers perched in treetops or on roofs as the death toll rose from monsoon rains across northern India and Bangladesh.

Vital to farmers, the annual rains are a blessing and a curse for the subcontinent a fact highlighted by official tallies: At least 186 people have been killed and 19 million driven from their homes in recent days.

The South Asian monsoon season runs from June to September as the rains work their way across the subcontinent. It's always dangerous. Last year more than 1,000 people died, most from drowning, landslides or house collapses.

This year, estimates of total deaths vary wildly from a few hundred to well over a thousand.

With hundreds of villages submerged across the fertile plains that stretch along the southern edge of the Himalayas, people were taking refuge wherever they could _ in Uttar Pradesh state, in northern India, women and children were spotted screaming for help from treetops.

In parts of the state river levels rose so quickly that villagers had no time to save any belongings.

"The gush of water was so sudden we did not get the time to react," Vinod Kumar, a resident of a flooded village in Basti district, told Enadu TV.

He made it out, but lost everything. "We do not have food, kerosene or even a match box," he said. "The officials are saying relief is coming, but nothing has come so far."

Health workers were fanning out across parts of Bangladesh and India to try to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases like diarrhea, typhoid and cholera.

In northwestern Bangladesh, farmer Rahmat Sheikh and his family were among 2,000 people who fled their flooded village for higher ground in the Sirajganj district.

"The floods have taken away all I had," said the 40-year-old Sheikh. "Rice paddies in the field, two cows and my house all are gone. I don't know how we will now survive."

One woman in Uttar Pradesh who identified herself only as Savitra said she had not "eaten anything for the last two days." So far this year, some 14 million people in India and 5 million in Bangladesh have been displaced or marooned by flooding, according to government figures. At least 132 people have died in recent days because of the floods in India and 54 more in Bangladesh. India's Meteorological Department said unusual monsoon patterns this year have led to heavier than normal rains.

Associated Press reporters Farid Hossain in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wasbir Hussain in Gauhati, Ramola Talwar Badam in Mumbai and Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.