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July 16, 2019

Monsoon batters South Asia


July 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: Fourteen people were killed when a building collapsed in northern India following heavy monsoon rains which have left more than 130 dead across South Asia, officials said on Monday.

Floods and landslides caused by the annual deluge have wreaked deadly havoc from the Himalayan foothills to low-lying camps housing Rohingya refugees, with officials warning tolls could rise as they scramble to reach affected communities.

In Bangladesh, at least 29 people died in the last week, including 18 hit by lightning and seven who drowned after their boat capsized in choppy waters in the Bay of Bengal. Another 10 died in overcrowded Rohingya refugee camps in the southeast of the country, and thousands of shanty homes were destroyed.

In the latest monsoon-related tragedy in India, a four-storey building on a hillside in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh collapsed, trapping those who had gathered for a party inside.

The structure -- located near the popular tourist destination of Shimla -- came down on Sunday following days of torrential downpours. Rescue workers used heavy machinery to remove heaps of mangled steel and concrete from the muddied debris, and pulled 28 survivors from the rubble.

A statement from the state Chief Minister´s office said 14 people died, all but one of whom were soldiers. One soldier pulled from the rubble said they had gathered for a party in the building´s restaurant, "but suddenly the building shook and collapsed".

Such incidents are common across the region during the monsoon because dilapidated structures buckle under the weight of continuous rain. In neighbouring Nepal, police said at least 67 have been killed in floods and landslides, while 30 more are missing.

The June to September monsoon causes widespread death and destruction across South Asia each year. Floods have also devastated much of the northeastern Indian state of Assam where four people died on Sunday after being swept away by sudden torrents.

The state´s Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO-recognised reserve and home to two-thirds of the world´s one-horned rhinos, has also been seriously affected by the weather.

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