Death toll grows from floods and landslides across South Asia

  • >>Mike Ives, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-07-15 12:43:36 BdST

File Photo: Villagers use a boat as they try to move to safer places at a flood-affected village in Darrang district in Assam, Jul 14, 2017. REUTERS

The death toll mounted Monday from flooding and landslides caused by torrential weekend rains in India and Nepal, as China reported record flooding in its rivers and aid workers in Bangladesh scrambled to secure a huge refugee camp that was inundated by mud and water.

The hardest-hit country appeared to be Nepal, where the police said in a tweet Monday morning that 65 people had died in the monsoonal rains that began there Friday. It said 38 others were injured, and 30 were still missing.

The worst-affected areas were in western Nepal, and the number of dead could rise in the coming days, Bed Nidi Kfanal, the head of the country’s National Emergency Operation Centers, said by telephone Sunday.

As of that evening, nine major highways in Nepal had been blocked by floods and mudslides, 1,100 people had been rescued and more than 10,000 others displaced, the centre said, according a report by The Associated Press. The report also said that bad weather had grounded helicopter rescue crews.

In India, at least 25 people had died, Mohamad Farukh, the chief executive of Rapid Response, a nongovernmental charity focusing on disaster relief, said in a text message Sunday. The government said Saturday that 750 people from the worst-affected states, Assam and Bihar, had been rescued in the previous three or four days.

In Bangladesh, at least a dozen people died over the weekend after being struck by lightning that accompanied monsoonal rains, officials told The AP, and tens of thousands of homes were submerged.

United Nations officials also said that since early July, the rains had flooded parts of the world’s largest refugee camp, in southeastern Bangladesh, which is home to more than half a million Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar.

Every year, from June to September, monsoon season brings heavy rains that pummel South Asia, regularly provoking deadly flooding. But the flooding this year has been heavier in some parts of the region.

In India, for example, 32 people died in early July after the heaviest monsoon rains in a decade struck Mumbai and nearby areas.

And in southern Bangladesh, a consortium of aid agencies said Friday that more than 45,000 people in refugee camps had been affected since the end of April by “weather-related incidents,” compared with 55,000 during the entire monsoon season last year.

In China, an official at the Ministry of Water Resources said Sunday that flooding in 377 rivers had exceeded alarm levels during this year’s flooding season, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The official, Wang Zhangli, said that number was 80% higher than the number of rivers reporting similar flooding levels in 1998, a year that record floods inundated the country, Xinhua reported.

© 2019 New York Times News Service