Overnight rains worsen South Asia floods, raising death toll to 289

Updated: 2007-08-05 20:11

BARABANKI, -- Torrential overnight rains compounded the misery of 2 million marooned Indian villagers, but the seasonal flooding was expected to ease in the next few days after claiming at least 289 lives across South Asia, officials said on August 5.

Helicopters dropped food and the army helped civil authorities carry out rescue operations. They also brought aid to hundreds of thousands of people who had escaped to high ground near national highways and railway tracks in India's Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states last week. Most villagers took their cows, buffaloes and goats to makeshift shelters.

At least 39 deaths were reported in Bangladesh and 21 in India over the weekend, raising Bangladesh's overall death toll to 120 and India's to 169, according to government figures available on Sunday.

Some 19ork their way across the subcontinent, a deluge that scatters floods and landslides across the region and kills hundreds of people every year.

As a rain-free Sunday saw major rivers receding in the worst-hit districts in India, doctors and paramedics started supplying medicine to people to prevent diarrhea, skin allergies and other waterborne diseases, said S. K. Gupta, an Indian army officer.

Army doctors treated 235 people suffering from waterborne diseases in makeshift camps near Gorakhpur, a town 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Uttar Pradesh's state capital, Lucknow, said Gupta, who is commanding a unit involved in relief operations.

"Our effort is to prevent the outbreak of an epidemic," he told The Associated Press.

Major rivers have also started receding in worst-hit eastern and central Bangladesh with monsoon rains weakening, the Flood Forecasting and Warning Center said Sunday in a bulletin in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital.

In India, an elderly couple and two of their relatives, who refused to leave their village, were crushed to death when their home collapsed on them on Saturday night in northern Uttar Pradesh state, Surendra Srivastava, a police spokesman, said on Sunday.

"These four people, all in 70s, were living on the rooftop of their home," he said. Their village, Karonda, is nearly 60 kilometers (afer places," Srivastava told The Associated Press.

At least 11 people died in Uttar Pradesh state, mostly in house collapses, on Saturday, he said.

Another 10 deaths were reported in eastern Bihar state, said Manoj Srivastava, the state disaster management secretary.

Ganeshganj was a thriving timber market town until last week. It's under water now with the nearby Ghaghra River breaching its embankments.

"It's the fifth day today (Sunday) that my shop is closed. We are praying to God to save us from this calamity," said Maiku Lal, sitting close to his flooded kiosk.

Helicopters continued dropping packets of flour, salt, candles and match boxes to marooned villagers in India's Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states, officials said.

Floodwaters were receding in eastern Bihar state where nearly 10 million people in 19 of the state's 36 districts have been affected, said Manoj Srivastava, the disaster management secretary. The weather has cleared with no rains over the past three days in the state.

"Once road links are restored, the flow of relief material will naturally improve," said Manoj Srivastava.

People started returning to their homes in India's northeastern state of Assam where nearly 200,000 people have been living in government and makeshift camps since last week. Floods in the state have eased as it has not rained thereernment, visited the northwestern district of Sirajganj on Saturday. Despite the devastation, he said the government had enough food and medicine to distribute and foreign assistance wasn't yet needed.

One person looking for that help was 45-year-old Aleya Begum, who took shelter on an embankment with more than 50 other families after their homes washed away in Pabna, 75 miles north of the capital, Dhaka.

She said the group was short of drinking water.

"I've lost everything. We need help from the government to survive," Begum said.

Low-lying areas around Dhaka were under neck-deep water, and many residents were using boats to travel around.

So far this year, some 14 million people in India and 5 million in Bangladesh have been displaced by flooding, according to government figures.

Associated Press reporters Parveen Ahmed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wasbir Hussain in Gauhati and Photographer Rajesh Singh in Uttar Pradesh, India contributed to this report.


Top World News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours