Bangladesh + 2 more

Eighty feared dead in monsoon floods in S. Asia

By Nizam Ahmed
DHAKA, July 15 (Reuters) - Fifty people were feared dead after a river burst its banks in Bangladesh and 30 people may have drowned after a crowded boat capsized in a river in eastern India as South Asia reeled under monsoon flooding on Thursday.

Surging river waters have covered wide swathes of land following torrential rains in eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal, leaving more than eight million people marooned or homeless since the start of the month.

More than two dozen prisoners swam to freedom from an inundated prison in eastern India because of the flooding that has left a trail of destruction in the region.

"For the last three days, we have been starving and have not received anything from the government," said Madhu Sarma on the outskirts of Guwahati, the main city in India's flood-hit state of Assam in the remote northeast.

"My children are crying in hunger," she said, sitting with her three children on a highway surrounded by flooded fields along with hundreds more who have lost their homes.

Officials said 30 people, including six women, were feared drowned when a boat packed with villagers fleeing the floods for dry land capsized in a swollen river in the flood-ravaged eastern state of Bihar.

"The boat was carrying around 50 people but 20 managed to swim to safety," government official A.L. Meena told Reuters.

In flood-prone Bangladesh, 50 people were feared drowned after the Jamuna river burst its banks and swept through a village near Bogra town, 250 km (155 miles) northwest of Dhaka, witnesses and police said on Thursday.

"At least 50 people were missing after a village with 250 homes was completely washed away," Moinul Hasan, a village head, told reporters.


The flooding in South Asia coincides with rainy season destruction across Asia.

This week, torrential rains killed eight people in northern Japan and forced the evacuation of thousands. More than 22 people died in Tawian and at least a dozen were missing in floods and landslides triggered by Typhoon Mindulle in early July. Floods killed dozens in southern China late last month.

But worst-hit is South Asia where more than 260 people have drowned or been killed by landslides or snakebites as monsoon rains have lashed the largely low-lying region since early July.

In impoverished Bihar, where huge tracts of land are under water, 34 jail inmates in the town of Darbhanga escaped by swimming out while prisoners were being evacuated from the flooded prison.

"The prisoners took advantage of the chaotic situation as over 600 prisoners were being taken to the first floor," said senior Bihar government official Pradeep Kumar.

In several areas, people complained of shortages of food and medicine as overflowing rivers swamped roads and rail tracks.

Helicopters dropped food and medicines to hundreds of flooded villages, triggering a scramble to grab the aid and authorities reported stray cases of looting of food.

"There is a complete breakdown of law and order in Darbhanga. Thousands are marooned and food items and medicines are scarce," said Binay Kumar Jha, a college teacher.

In Bangladesh, flooding hit crops -- including mainstay rice paddies -- submerging 1 million acres (404,700 hectares).

In Himalayan Nepal, where two people died in flooding overnight, Binay Kumar Thakur was distraught.

"Everything I had is washed away by floods. I have been ruined," 35-year-old Thakur said. (Additional Reporting by Biswajyoti Das in GUWAHATI, Gopal Sharma in KATHMANDU and Anita Mishra in PATNA)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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