Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Ravaging torrents rage through South Asia

FLOODS Monsoon rains in the foothills of the Himalayas have flooded rivers that originate in Nepal and run through eastern Indian and into neighboring Bangladesh


Devotees pray in the Godavari River at Rajahmundry, in the eastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Despite monsoon floods that have submerged temples, hundreds of thousands of Hindus thronged to Rajahmundry and Nasik, in Maharasthra state for the month-long Kumbh Mela festival.


Incessant monsoon rains swelled rivers and flooded more villages across South Asia yesterday, raising the death toll to 849 in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.

More than 12 million people are homeless or stranded, according to government estimates.

Landslides, lightning strikes, overflowing rivers, waterborne diseases, falling trees and collapsing roofs -- constant features of the monsoon season in South Asia -- have killed 333 people in India, 202 in Pakistan, 181 in Bangladesh and 133 in Nepal.

Authorities in India's eastern Bihar state sounded an alert yesterday after floods worsened in six districts due to fresh rains. Officials began evacuating residents of low-lying areas.

Jagdanand Singh, Bihar's water resources minister, said the rain-swollen Gandhak River was flowing close to its danger mark. "The sudden swelling of the Gandhak was caused by incessant rain in the catchment area in Nepal during the past two days," he said.

Schools and district government offices have been converted into temporary shelters for thousands of people who have fled their homes because they are in danger of being submerged.

Torrential rain in the foothills of the Himalayas have flooded rivers that originate in Nepal and run through the eastern Indian states of Assam, Bihar and West Bengal, and through neighboring Bangladesh. The rivers eventually drain into the Bay of Bengal.

Several rivers in northern Bihar, including the Bagmati, Kamala and Kosi, were flowing above the danger mark, state relief officials said yesterday.

In Bangladesh, most of the 181 deaths have been caused by drowning and landslides, but poisonous snakes washed out of their holes bit some people as they waded through the water.

The floods, which began in mid-June, have destroyed nearly 100,000 houses and affected more than 3 million people in Bangladesh, a delta nation crisscrossed by nearly 250 rivers and their tributaries.

Roads and bridges have been washed away and tens of thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed. The Bangladesh government is yet to make a damage estimate.

In Nepal, a highway linking the capital, Katmandu, with most parts of the Himalayan kingdom remained closed yesterday, as unrelenting rains kept rescue helicopters from delivering relief materials to villages hit by landslides.

Forty-eight people were killed in Nepal Thursday by landslides triggered by nonstop rains.

The government mobilized police and soldiers to help in rescue missions and to clear roads, said Lekhnath Pokhrel of Nepal's Natural Calamity and Disaster Management Center.

Floodwaters were receding in neighbor Pakistan, which has seen the heaviest monsoon rains in a quarter-century.

But meteorologists warned of more rains next week. Thirty-four bodies were found Thursday as waters receded, raising the death toll from just one week of flooding to 133, officials said.

The rains start in southern India in early June and move northward until September.

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