Hungry victims of South Asia's devastating floods have been reduced to fighting over food supplies and looting, officials said, with one teenager drowning as he scrambled for air-dropped provisions.
Sarfaraz, 17, drowned in Darbhanga district of India’s Bihar state as he went after food being dropped by helicopter, and dozens of others have been injured in similar scrambles or in fights over dwindling food supplies.
More than 440 people have died in India, Bangladesh and Nepal in the latest phase of the annual monsoon floods, which began around two to three weeks ago.
The floods, the worst in living memory in some areas, have affected 35 million people in the region.
Ten million of those have been made homeless or left stranded, and are becoming increasingly desperate as they face food shortages and water-borne diseases.
Women and children in a Bihar village clashed over small packets of biscuits being handed out by a local aid organisation, while villagers in another part of the state looted a tractor full of grain, officials said.
"We are surviving on snails as we have nothing to eat", Bhagwan Manjhi of Bihar's East Champaran district told a local news channel.
Four air force helicopters are air-dropping food in affected areas, officials said.
"We are trying to prevent such food rioting by pumping more relief materials into the flood-hit areas," said Manoj Kumar Srivastava, the state disaster management secretary.
Around 6,100 packets containing 5 kg of flattened rice, salt, jaggery and flour have been distributed in the region.
"We haven't had any sleep for days," said Murari Mohan Sharma, a public distribution officer supervising dozens of labourers loading supply-stuffed sacks -- including matches and candles -- onto helicopters at Patna airport, Bihar's capital.
"It's a big challenge," he said.
THREAT OF EPIDEMIC
In Orissa, at least 30,000 homeless people were living without food and water as heavy monsoon showers continued, officials said on Monday.
"I don't have a morsel to eat at home and have not been able to go the market also," said Sanjay Rout, a government employee confined to his house for days in Bhubaneswar, the partially flooded state capital.
Schools and colleges were shut and hundreds of people moved to higher ground.
At least 17 people have either drowned or been killed in lightning strikes in Orissa since last Saturday.
In Assam, hundreds of private doctors began volunteering to help government hospitals cope with an influx of people with dysentery, diarrhoea, fevers and skin diseases.
"There is every possibility of an outbreak of epidemic in the state," said Dr Nareswar Dutta, president of the state branch of the Indian Medical Association.
"We have asked all our members in Assam to provide all possible services to the people in flood-affected areas."
Health workers said Assam's overcrowded relief camps have become unhygienic as people are crammed together with cattle and poultry.
"Most of the sick are children," one official said.
Floods sweeping nearly two-thirds of Bangladesh killed 36 more people overnight, taking the confirmed death toll from more than two weeks of deluge to 156, an official said on Monday.
The latest victims died of drowning and snakebites, while at least 40 other people were missing, officials said.
In Nepal, around 60 people have died in the last couple of weeks and 93 since the monsoon began, officials said.
Hundreds of people were returning to their muddy homes as water levels receded. More than 9,700 homes have been completely destroyed, the home ministry estimated.
(Additional reporting by Serajul Islam Quadir in Dhaka, Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu and Biswajyoti Das in Guwahati)