S Asia flood victims desperate for food, clean water
PATNA: Many of the millions of people forced from their homes by floods across South Asia were desperate for food and drinking water on Monday, with aid workers battling to reach them in tough conditions.
The flooding, described as the heaviest in 30 years, has affected more than 25 million people and killed at least 1,450 others in Bangladesh, India and Nepal since monsoon rains began pouring down in June. The disaster has hit India’s Bihar state the worst, where some of the growing number of people marooned by the swirling, muddy water fought for emergency food supplies.
The state’s disaster management chief, Manoj Srivastava, put the total number of flood-affected at 11.5 million. More than 6,000 villages were submerged, he told AFP, but added that the waters appeared to be receding. “This has been an unprecedented flood,” Srivastava told AFP. “The data shows in Bihar in several districts the rainfall has been 250 to 300 percent higher than the average for the last 30 years.”
An estimated two million Biharis are living outdoors, state officials said. One teenager in the state drowned Sunday in a fight for a packet of relief supplies, police said. The skies cleared Monday, but a United Nations official warned that rivers upstream in neighbouring Nepal were still overflowing. “If there is more water from Nepal then the situation will only get worse,” Job Zachariah, the head of the Bihar chapter of the child welfare agency UNICEF, told AFP.
Bihar’s chief minister has blamed Nepal for the flooding and officials say Kathmandu must build more dams to control the flow of waters south. Officials in Nepal have hit back, saying overflowing Indian dams on the border have flooded their low-lying regions. were dropping thousands of emergency packets containing dry rations, candles, plastic sheets and matches over areas of northern Bihar, but some villagers said the much-needed supplies were sinking into the murky water.
“Some parts of the district have got cut off in such a way with roads submerged that the people there cannot be reached by boats,” said Srivastava. At least 1,120 people have died in India as a result of this season’s monsoon. Large parts of northern Uttar Pradesh and northeastern Assam states are also submerged. Officials put the total number of those affected by the flood in the three Indian states at more than 18 million. But many villagers were returning to their homes in Assam after the rains halted. afp