Monsoon wreaks flood havoc across South Asia | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Monsoon wreaks flood havoc across South Asia

Torrential monsoon rains swept away homes and triggered landslides across South Asia, affecting millions of people and claiming at least 180 lives, officials said Tuesday. The monsoon is crucial for irrigation and groundwater supplies in the impoverished region -- home to a fifth of the world’s population -- and brings relief after the unforgiving summer.

But the downpours -- which stretch from June to September -- can turn deadly and have wreaked havoc again this year across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, with people, dwellings and boats in remote low-lying areas washed away. In Mumbai, a building collapsed in a crammed neighbourhood, killing two people and trapping more than 40 following heavy rains in the city.

At least five children drowned in Bangladesh Monday, taking the toll in the country to 34, including 18 hit by lightning and seven who drowned after their boat capsized in choppy waters in the Bay of Bengal. Hundreds of thousands have been marooned by floodwater in the country’s north, with one of the major Himalayan rivers, the Brahmaputra, over a metre (40 inches) above the “danger level”, officials said. In Nepal, at least 78 people have died and 16,000 families displaced, although flood waters have started receding.

Images showed rescuers using inflatable dinghies to evacuate families trapped in flooded houses. Health experts have warned of possible outbreaks of waterborne diseases and called for international help. “The ground floor of our house was completely submerged,” Rajaram Yadav, 45, told AFP from a district near the border with India. “Our family and some neighbours survived by staying at the top floor for two days. Most one- floor mud houses in the areas have been severely damaged.”

Red alert

Nearly 50 people have been killed in India, with two eastern states -- Assam and Bihar, which borders Nepal -- bearing the brunt of the deluge. Authorities in Assam declared a red alert Monday as the flood situation turned critical, with villages cut off by surging waters and a major highway submerged. Photos showed residents crammed in boats carrying their belongings to safer areas in Morigaon, one of the worst-affected districts, and just the roofs of submerged homes above water.

So far 11 people have died in the state and some 83,000 people displaced by flooding. Authorities also scrambled to reach animals marooned by the deluge at the state’s World-Heritage listed Kaziranga National Park, which is home to twothirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos. In Bihar, 25 deaths were reported, with 2.5 million residents affected. Among the dead were three children who drowned as they went to check the rising water level in a canal.

Two others died while playing near a ditch filled with floodwater, the Press Trust of India reported. Further northwest, in the Pakistan-administered part of the Kashmir region, flash floods killed 23 people and damaged 120 houses, with the water and power supplies crippled. The United Nations said Monday it “stands ready to work with the authorities in the affected countries as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from this ongoing monsoon season”.

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