Flooding engulfs Dhaka

INUNDATED: The monsoon rains of South Asia this year have caused widespread flooding in Bangladesh, while the worst floods in years have also ravaged China


Thu, Jul 29, 2004 - Page 6

Deaths from monsoon rains across South Asia this year stood yesterday at 1,100 as residents in the Bangladeshi capital suffer through its worst flooding in six years, wading through sewage and rowing boats on flooded roads.

The annual monsoon flooding, fed by melting snow and torrential rains, has left millions across South Asia marooned or homeless. At least 686 people have died in India, 102 in Nepal and five in Pakistan, according to reports from officials, compiled by reporters.

Forty-four new deaths were reported Monday and Tuesday in central and northern Bangladesh, raising the number killed in this delta nation to 394, the government said.

Most of the deaths were caused by drowning, lightning, poisonous snakes that slither through the water during flooding and outbreaks of waterborne diseases.

The flooding in Dhaka, a city of 10 million people, has not only affected shantytowns built in low-lying areas, but residential neighborhoods and parts of the central business district.

Holding their belongings over their heads, residents waded through the waist-deep flood waters, which had mixed with sewage and turned blackish and foul-smelling.

Small wooden boats and cycle rickshaws, the only mode of transportation useful in the floods, formed traffic jams. Electrical wires dangled dangerously over some roads.

The floods in Bangladesh are the worst since 1998. They have engulfed two-thirds of the country, affecting more than 25 million people. Up to 1.3 million displaced people huddled in about 4,000 flood shelters. Villagers have pitched tents on highways or mud embankments with their families and cattle.

higher foundations

Authorities repaved streets in parts of Dhaka following devastating floods six years ago, an effort to raise them above flood levels. New houses have been built on pillars or with higher foundations.

But the rising water still entered the ground floor of Mohammad Shaheen's single story, brick house a few days ago.

``I had to raise the bed with up to six bricks today, but I could not put bricks under the wardrobe, as it was too heavy to move,'' he said.

He planned to send his family to his in-laws in the unaffected southeastern city of Chittagong.


Meanwhile, China's worst floods in several decades have killed more than 400 people this year while other parts of the country are battling drought and unusually hot weather, state media said yesterday.

Flooding has killed at least 439 people, injured 21,600 nationwide and caused billions of dollars in damage, the official China Daily said.

Xinhua described the floods as the worst in several decades.

Villagers, police and the military are helping in rescue efforts and shoring up defences against swollen rivers to limit further damage from the summer floods, an annual scourge.

State television has showed uniformed paramilitary police wearing orange life jackets delivering food and medicine to flood victims along the Ni river in the central province of Henan.

In Yunnan Province, farmers in blue raincoats shovelled sand into bags to reinforce embankments, while in Guangxi Province, a bulldozer cleared debris from roads.

This year's floods have toppled 275,000 houses and damaged more than 1 million, forcing more than 1.46 million people to flee their homes, the China Daily said.