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Monsoon floods wreak havoc in India, Bangladesh

Heavy monsoon rains have forced more than 650,000 people from their homes in India and Bangladesh and may hit vital rice production in one of South Asia's main rice bowls.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2003 10:43 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Heavy monsoon rains have forced more than 650,000 people from their homes in India and Bangladesh and may hit vital rice production in one of South Asia's main rice bowls, officials said on Monday.

At least 260 people have died in rising waters, lightning strikes and mudslides since the monsoon hit in June.

"The flood is still spreading, covering new areas everyday. It is too early to assess crop damage. It will take weeks before we can estimate losses," one Bangladeshi official told Reuters.

Bangladesh produces about 24 million tonnes of rice each year and imports two-to-three million tonnes. Monsoon flooding could seriously hit domestic output.

The floods have made more than 250,000 people homeless and stranded about 1.5 million in Bangladesh. Much of the flooding is being caused by swollen rivers flowing from neighbouring India.

Five people drowned in Bangladesh in the past 24 hours pushing the monsoon toll there to 20. Another 400 people were feared to have drowned last week when a crowded ferry capsized in a monsoon-swollen river.

In Assam, more than 400,000 people have been driven from their homes, often little more than straw huts, since mid-June and at least 50 have died.

And, in Bihar, officials say thousands are homeless and 12 people have died since Thursday, five of them in the past 24 hours.

Scores more have died in recent weeks across India and neighbouring Nepal.

In Assam, villagers are appealing for air drops of food and medicine as thousands are suffering from malaria and diarrhoea.

The annual monsoon season is crucial for South Asia's economy, where most people depend on agriculture, but the rains and floods cause hundred of deaths and leave millions homeless every year.

First Published: Jul 15, 2003 10:43 IST