Floods claim dozens of lives in S Asia
The death toll climbs as dozens more perish in torrents of monsoon rains that have marooned millions in northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal.Updated: Aug 03, 2007 17:46 IST
The death toll climbed on Friday as dozens more people perished in torrents of monsoon rains that have marooned millions in northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal, officials said.
In India alone the number of dead crosssed the 1,000 mark with new victims reported from northern Uttar Pradesh state.
Twenty-one deaths occurred overnight in three eastern districts hardest hit by the heavy flooding, state relief commissioner Umesh Sinha told AFP.
The figures brought to 1,028 the number of people reported killed nationwide in the annual downpour that began in June and lasts until September, according to officials and media reports.
More deaths were also reported in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.
"The situation is under control now," Sinha said after announcing 1,650 paramilitary and army personnel had been deployed along with civilian rescue teams to help some 1.4 million flood-hit people.
Many rivers were in spate, breaching embankments and dykes, he added.
The weather office in Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state, forecast "heavy to very heavy rains expected in the next 24 hours."
The monsoon regularly brings flooding to South Asia but this year has seen some of the worst in recent times with the north and east particuarly hard hit.
In neighbouring Bihar state, chief minister Nitish Kumar described the flood situation as "grim" with over seven million people cut off by overflowing rivers.
"It's not possible to reach all the people by boat. The only alternative is airdropping relief material," Kumar said of the state's worst-hit Darbhanga district.
"Sixteen of the state's 38 districts are under water. That means some 3,614 villages are affected," AK Chowdhury, Bihar chief secretary told AFP by phone.
Flooding has destroyed crops planted over 630,000 hectares (1.6 million acres) and early estimates suggest losses of 450 million rupees (11 million dollars) in the state, he said.
"The flood situation is very very serious, the situation we have now is unprecedented in the past 30 years," Chowdhury said.
Further east in Bangladesh, authorities reported another 11 deaths taking the annual monsoon toll to 191.
Disaster management minister Tapan Chowdhury said thousands of army and civilian personnel had been mobilised.
Around 6.9 million Bangladeshis were either displaced or marooned in villages, he said, adding that of those an estimated 200,000 had taken refuge in government shelters.
"We are distributing dried food to people by boat but in some places we cannot reach people because of lack of boats so we are making rafts by cutting banana trees," said district relief officer Abul Khaer in northern Sirajganj district.
Nepal has also been badly hit and the death toll rose Friday to 87, the home ministry said.
Some 32 of the Himalayan nation's 75 districts have been affected. Biratnagar, a border town close to India, reported 223 millimetres (8.8 inches) of rain in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, further downstream in eastern West Bengal state and northeastern Assam, the situation was improving, a government spokesman said.
"The situation is on the mend," Bhumidhar Barman, Assam's relief minister, told AFP. "We have had no rains in the past 48 hours."
A Central Water Commission bulletin said water-levels in all the major rivers and their tributeries were receding.
"Some people have already started leaving the 3,500 relief camps and are going back to their villages although a vast majority of the 5.5 million people affected are unable to return as their homes are filled with mud," Barman said.
First Published: Aug 03, 2007 17:14 IST