Bangladesh + 3 more

Waterlogged Asia Succumbs to More Floods, Deaths

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Situation Report
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Posted
Originally published
Written by Stephanie Kriner, Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org, with news reports
After suffering for three months with torrential rains and raging flood waters, there still is no end in sight for thousands of people living in deluged villages across Southeast Asia and India. Sporadic rains and rising rivers continue to wreak havoc. Even in villages where the waters are receding, refugees refuse to return home because they are afraid that the waterlogged region is still susceptible to flash floods and mudslides.

Across the flood-stricken region, nearly 2,000 people have died, mostly from drowning, gastrointestinal diseases and snakebites. An estimated 5 million people lost their homes and some $1 billion in combined losses have been reported in eastern India, southwestern Bangladesh, Cambodia, southern Vietnam and parts of Laos and Thailand.

In some villages, the waters have begun to recede, but in other places the situation seems to be growing more severe. New areas have been inundated as flood waters flow down river toward the Bay of Bengal and South China Sea or as officials take away barriers to drain the most devastated regions. After living for weeks or months in crowded conditions along embankments and in shelters, flood victims are growing more vulnerable to diseases like cholera and dengue fever.

As the huge expanse of flood water moves slowly south, the Red Cross and other relief organizations are struggling to meet the growing needs. In Bangladesh's Satkhira district, just recently inundated by the moving floodwater, the number of homeless people continues to rise as the floods engulf new areas, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation). More than 300,000 people in Satkhira are thought to be camped out on roads with 200,000 living in temporary camps set up by the government. Over 3 million people have been affected by the floods since they moved overland across the Indian border in the early hours of the morning of Sept. 22.

Forecasters warn that the worst may still be yet to come with the looming threat of storms and typhoons, which tend to hit the region more frequently in October and November. Last November, storm-related floods in Vietnam claimed more than 700 lives. If a storm were to hit in the coming weeks, it could be even more devastating because the waterlogged ground would not absorb the rain. Flooding could be catastrophic, relief officials warn.

In Vietnam, relief officials also are concerned because people continue to die despite the receding waters along the Mekong Delta. In the Mekong alone, some 391 people have died, mostly children who drowned after falling off embankments. Nationwide, the flood-related death toll tops 500.

Thousands of flood victims still live on dikes with only makeshift shelters and little or no fresh water. About 10 percent of the estimated 300,000 people forced to evacuate have returned - many only to find that their homes and crops were destroyed by the floods. The Federation said that there is a massive need for plastic sheeting to cover damaged homes.

It could be months before the lives of many flood victims return to normal. The Federation is working with Red Cross societies in the affected countries to assist some 700,000 victims throughout the region, but the needs are continually growing. The Federation has launched appeals for 7.47 million Swiss francs (about $4 million) for the region.

"In Vietnam alone there are at least 4 million affected people," said John Geoghegan with the Federation. "Many of them are still living in temporary shelters on higher ground, and it is crucial that we ensure safe water supplies to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases."

Relief and government officials are rushing to meet the needs of all hungry and disease-threatened flood victims, but the prolonged disaster has sparked frustrations. Nearly 2,000 victims of Cambodia's floods marched on offices of the United Nations and Red Cross last Friday demanding food and accusing the government of siphoning off flood relief.

The crowd of mainly farmers, led by opposition leader and government critic, Sam Rainsy, marched first to the offices of the UN's World Food Program and Federation before gathering outside the Cambodian Red Cross building.

Representatives from both international agencies came out to meet the opposition leader and hear his complaints. The secretary general of the Cambodian Red Cross, Mey Samedi, agreed to provide the crowd with relief packages, each which would contain 25 kilograms of rice. The World Food Program is currently feeding more than 500,000 Cambodians who have lost property and crops.

DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement.

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

=A9 Copyright 2000, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.