Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Scores more die in Bangladesh floods

WATERY DISASTER Officials are worried that disease will bring the death toll even higher as two-thirds of the country remains under water

REUTERS , Dhaka

Bangladeshi women wade through a flooded road with pitchers to collect drinking water in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka yesterday. At least 100 more people were reported killed in Bangladesh's floods, taking the death toll from three weeks of devastation to almost 400, officials said. About two-thirds of the low-lying and impoverished nation is under water in the worst floods in 15 years.

PHOTO: REUTERS

At least 100 more people were reported killed in Bangladesh's floods yesterday, taking the death toll from three weeks of devastation to almost 400, officials said.

About two-thirds of the low-lying and impoverished nation is under water in the worst flooding in 15 years. Disaster relief officials said the new deaths were reported from all over the country and victims had died of drowning, disease, snakebites or in house collapses.

The current floods have killed nearly 1,000 people across South Asia, including about 400 in India's eastern state of Bihar.

The death toll in the eastern Indian state of Assam rose to 170, state officials said yesterday. They said about 12 million people were affected by the floods in the state.

starving babies

"There is an acute scarcity of baby food and over 500,000 babies affected during the floods are starving," Assam's health minister Bhumidhar Burman said.

Over 200 doctors and paramedics had been sent to the flood areas to control the outbreak of epidemic, he told reporters.

In the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, thousands of families were crammed in overflowing temporary shelters where authorities were distributing limited supplies of food and drinking water.

Officials said more than 100,000 people had moved into schools and high-rise buildings in the city, and thousands more were expected to join them.

"There is hardly any room left for them," said an official in the Old Dhaka area. The situation turned worse as rising floodwater entered some of the shelters, witnesses said.

The floods have inundated large parts of the capital city of 10 million people, forcing thousands of residents to take boats to work.

Many streets were under waist-deep water, where boats replaced rickshaws as primary mode of transport.

FILTH ALL AROUND

The city's sewage system has broken down and water-borne diseases are rampant.

"Conditions are getting worse every day. The water is rising and bringing in more filth," said Abu Kalam, a government official in Dhaka's Madartek area. "We are living in an open sewer."

Authorities have warned the public against eating fish caught in floodwaters. Fish and rice are staples in the nation.

Authorities and volunteers distributed cooked food and drinking water in jerry cans in the shelters but supplies were inadequate, witnesses said.

"It is difficult to cope with huge demand for life-saving materials but we are trying not to deprive anyone," a disaster management official said.

The government's flood monitoring cell so far confirmed 329 deaths while health officials said at least 60 people died of diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases.

Nearly 500 patients were being treated in Dhaka's International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research hospital yesterday.

Doctors said the flow of patients, mostly children, would rise once the floodwaters started receding.

It is the worst flooding in Bangladesh since 1988 when about 3,500 people died.

The floods have left more than 10 million people homeless. Agriculture officials said paddy and other crops worth US$380 million had been lost.

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