18 dead in India, Bangladesh floods; millions without homes


At least 18 people have died as massive floods ravaged northeastern India and Bangladesh, leaving millions of homes underwater and severing transport links, authorities said Saturday.

In India’s Assam state, at least nine people were killed in the floods and two million saw their homes submerged, according to the state disaster management agency.

Lightning in parts of neighbouring Bangladesh, meanwhile, killed nine people on Friday.

Both countries have asked their militaries for help as more flooding looms with rains expected to continue over the weekend.

The Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, breached its mud embankments, inundating 3,000 villages and croplands in 28 of Assam’s 33 districts.

“We expect moderate to heavy rainfall in several parts of Assam [until] Sunday. The volume of rainfall has been unprecedented,” said Sanjay O’Neil, an official at the meteorological station in Gauhati, Assam’s capital.

Several train services were cancelled in India amid the incessant downpour over the past five days. In the southern Assam town of Haflong, the railway station was underwater and flooded rivers deposited mud and silt along the rail tracks.

Army mobilized

India’s army has been mobilized to assist disaster response agencies in rescuing stranded people and providing food and other essentials. Soldiers used speedboats and inflatable rafts to navigate through submerged areas.

National Disaster Response Force workers on Friday rescue people stranded by flooding in India’s Korora village, west of of the city of Gauhati. (Anupam Nath/The Associated Press)

In Bangladesh, districts near the Indian border have been hit hardest.

Water levels in all major rivers across the country were rising, according to the flood forecasting and warning centre in Dhaka, the capital. The country has about 130 rivers.

The centre said the flood situation is likely to deteriorate in the worst-hit Sunamganj and Sylhet districts in the northeastern region as well as in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Rangpur districts in northern Bangladesh.

People wade along a road in a flooded area following heavy monsoon rainfalls in Sylhet, Bangladesh, on Saturday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Flight operations at Osmani International Airport in Sylhet have been suspended for three days as floodwaters have almost reached the runway, according to Hafiz Ahmed, the airport manager.

Last month, a pre-monsoon flash flood, triggered by a rush of water from upstream in India’s northeastern states, hit Bangladesh’s northern and northeastern regions, destroying crops and damaging homes and roads. The country was just starting to recover when fresh rains flooded the same areas again this week.

Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, is low-lying and faces threats from natural disasters such as floods and cyclones, made worse by climate change. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, about 17 per cent of people in Bangladesh would need to be relocated over the next decade or so if global warming persists at the present rate.

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