Wed, Aug 08, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Death toll in South Asia floods soars, millions face hunger

AFP , PATNA, INDIA

The toll from severe floods across South Asia soared to nearly 1,900 yesterday as water levels in the region's swollen rivers started to recede, but millions of people still faced hunger.

Aid workers struggled to deliver supplies to some of the 28 million people displaced across India, Bangladesh and Nepal by the worst monsoon-triggered flooding in decades, with some areas unreachable due to the high waters.

In India's worst-hit Bihar State, 12 million people have seen their homes and farmland partially or totally submerged after the heaviest rainfall in 30 years.

An overcrowded vessel -- one of scores of country boats ferrying to safety those who had been sheltering on rooftops -- capsized late on Monday in the impoverished state, claiming the lives of at least 65 people, police said.

Six women drowned in a separate boat accident, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The Indian home ministry said that 1,258 people had died due to monsoon-related causes from June through Aug. 1, but numerous deaths have been reported in the last six days, bringing the toll to more than 1,500.

Nearly half the deaths have taken place in the last two weeks alone, with floods submerging parts of northern Uttar Pradesh State, eastern Orissa and northeastern Assam, affecting another 6.5 million people in the three states.

In Bihar, the government's disaster management chief said relief operations were "in full swing," with millions of kilograms of rice and wheat distributed, but many villagers say they are going hungry.

"We have not received any relief or even a fistful of grains in the past 15 days," Shauki Sani said in Majhouli village in Bihar's ravaged Darbhanga District, 125km northeast of the state capital Patna.

"Our entire family is going hungry," Sani said.

In Bangladesh, the seven-month-old military-backed government has appealed to political parties, wealthy citizens and foreign countries to help rush food supplies to 9 million flood victims.

Flood-hit areas reported acute shortages of food and other items even as officials said 8,000 tonnes of food had been distributed since late last month.

The monsoon toll in Bangladesh, a delta nation prone to floods, stood at 282, with more than half of them dying in the last 10 days, officials said.

In Nepal, at least 94 people have died in landslides and floods since the beginning of June, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

More than 330,000 people have also been affected, mostly in the southern plains bordering Bihar, it said, adding that UN agencies were in the process of supplying food aid to the worst-affected.

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