Archive for Monday, September 25, 2000

Flood toll rises in South Asia

September 25, 2000


— As flooding receded, the army worked Sunday to deliver food and fresh water to millions marooned in eastern India after six days of rain submerged the countryside and left an estimated 373 dead or missing, officials said.

Soldiers took hundreds of boats into the countryside to rescue people from their rooftops. Rescue efforts, hampered previously because of downed roads and rail lines, were back in full swing, officials said.

Up to 13 million people were left stranded, said Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, the deputy chief minister of West Bengal, one of the worst affected states. India is a densely populated country of 1 billion people.

Military helicopters dropped food and supplies to as many as they could reach. Many flood victims were forced to seek shelter on roads, railway tracks and embankments, a relief and rehabilitation department official said.

Rail service and power supplies were to be restored soon, officials said. Some of the towns and villages submerged by the incessant rain were limping back to life Sunday, West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said. The water level of many rivers that were previously flowing above the danger mark had come down or remained steady, he said.

In the neighboring state of Bihar, several rivers overflowed their banks, killing 30 people, officials said.

To the east, in Bangladesh, swirling floodwaters from rivers in the northwest breached mud embankments and swamped scores of villages, forcing at least 60,000 people to flee their homes, relief officials said.

Another 250,000 people were marooned in more than 100 farming villages in the Rajshahi, Meherpur, Chapainawabganj and Chuadanga districts, said area administrator Mohammad Kamrul Islam.

Four children drowned in three villages of Chuadanga district, raising the death toll for the week to nine, Islam said.

The region, 145 miles northwest of Dhaka, parallels the flood-stricken villages of the India's West Bengal state.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 130 million people, is buffeted by floods and cyclones every year. But floods are rare in the country's northwestern region, which is now being ravaged by torrential rain.

"This is for the first time we have seen such a big flood," Ali Gazi, a 60-year-old farmer in Meherpur district, told Dhaka's Bhorer Kagaj newspaper.

The floods were likely to intensify, Dhaka's Flood Forecasting and Warning Center predicted Sunday. The Padma and Mahananda Rivers threatened to swell over their banks because of torrential rain.

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