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World

AFP
July 16, 2019

Monsoon rains wreak flood havoc across South Asia

World

AFP
Tue, Jul 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: Survivors scrambled for higher ground as torrential monsoon rains swept away homes and triggered landslides across South Asia Tuesday, with millions of people affected and at least 180 dead, officials said.

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 parts of Pakistan, with people, dwellings and boats in remote low-lying areas washed away.

"Entire communities have been cut off by rising waters, increasing the risk of people going hungry and getting sick," Xavier Castellanos, of the International Federation of Red Cross, said of the growing crisis.

In Mumbai, a building collapsed in a cramped neighbourhood, killing seven people following heavy rains in the city.

"Rescue operations are ongoing and we expect over 10 people to be stuck in the debris but cannot confirm the exact figures," Mumbai disaster spokesman Tanaji Kamble told AFP.

Almost a third of Bangladesh -- a delta country criss-crossed by hundreds of rivers -- was underwater, said Arifuzzaman Bhuyan of the state-run Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre.

At least 14 major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, burst their banks and were flowing above "danger levels", marooning hundreds of thousands, he added.

The toll in the flood-prone country rose to 34, including five children who drowned, 18 others hit by lightning and seven who drowned after their boat capsized in choppy waters in the Bay of Bengal.

In Nepal, at least 78 people died and 16,000 families were 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.

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.