Death Toll From Floods Reaches 1,100 Across South Asia

( [email protected] ) Jul 27, 2004 08:53 PM EDT

The death toll continues to rise as the worst flooding in years turned the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, into an open sewer and disease spread. After three weeks of devastation the death toll in Bangladesh is more than 394 and across south Asia floods have killed more than 1,100, officials said. Meanwhile, the floods have left more than 10 million people homeless.

"The situation is now deteriorating in central parts of Bangladesh as major rivers continue to rise and floodwater from further north drains towards the sea," reported UK-based Christian Aid. "Low-lying areas in and around the capital Dhaka are already under water."

Christian Aid, which launched an emergency response to the floods two weeks ago, has received reports from its partner agencies on the current devastation. "Damage is likely to be devastating and long-lasting," stated Christian Aid staff in Dhaka last week.

Already, the floods in Bangladesh have been identified as the worst in 15 years, engulfing two-thirds of the country and affecting more than 25 million people. According to the Associated Press, up to 1.3 million displaced people huddled in about 4,000 flood shelters. Villagers have pitched tents on highways or mud embankments with their families and cattle.

Disaster relief officials said new deaths were reported from all over the country from drowning, disease and snakebites and when houses collapsed.

The floods have also killed as many as 686 people in India's eastern state of Bihar and northeastern state of Assam.

In Bihar, state relief minister Ram Vichar Rai said more than 320 bodies had been found in remote areas in the last 72 hours as flood waters receded. The toll could rise sharply in coming days, he said.

According to Reuters, this year's death toll in Bihar was the highest in three years of floods. State relief and rehabilitation officer R.S. Tewari said he expected the toll to rise as rescuers reached remote parts of the impoverished state.

The death toll in the northeastern Indian state of Assam rose to 170, officials said. About 12 million people had been affected by the floods, which had disrupted essential supplies.

"There is an acute scarcity of baby food and over 500,000 babies affected during the floods are starving," Assam Health Minister Bhumidhar Burman told Reuters.

More than 200 doctors and paramedics had been called in to battle disease, he said.

Foods have inundated large parts of the Bangladeshi capital, forcing thousands of families into shelters where authorities were distributing food and drinking water.

Officials said more than 100,000 people had moved into schools and high-rise buildings in the city, and thousands more were expected to join them.

"There is hardly any room left for them," said an official in the Old Dhaka area.

With some shelters having been flooded even a city soccer stadium had been turned into a shelter for about 10,000 people.

"We came here from slums around the city but life is even harder here, with little food but no electricity, no latrines and mosquito bites at night," said Sufia Begum, a woman taking shelter at the stadium.

The number of people nearly doubled in one Old Dhaka shelter in the 24 hours to Tuesday afternoon and food and medical supplies running short. Streets were waist-deep in water and boats replaced rickshaws.

Dhaka's sewage system had stopped functioning and water-borne diseases were rampant.

"Conditions are getting worse every day. The water is rising and bringing in more filth," said government official Abu Kalam. "We are living in an open sewer."

Health officials said at least 60 people had died of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases and doctors said the flow of patients, most of them children, would rise. Officials have told people not to eat fish caught in floodwaters.

According to officials, it is the worst flooding in Bangladesh since 1988 when two-thirds of the country was submerged, leading to the deaths of about 3,500 people.

[Source: AlertNet]