Sunday, August 5, 2007

South Asian Floods Uproot 20 Million

In South Asia, hundreds (or thousands) of people are dead and at least 20 million have been "affected" by floods which have washed away homes, crops and animals.

The rains have been especially heavy this year in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, where rivers have burst their banks far from the ocean, flooding enormous low-lying areas, especially in the delta nation of Bangladesh, where all this water makes its way to the Bay of Bengal.

The New York Times reported:
Freak rains, which scientists describe as a hallmark of climate change, seemed to be responsible. The devastation was all the more severe because flimsy dams and embankments collapsed under the weight of floodwaters. The mud houses of the poor were the first to wash away.

Weather scientists have said South Asia is likely to get much more unpredictable rain in the coming decades, bringing greater challenges for its governments to prepare and cope with nature’s fury.

In Bangladesh, perennially inundated because so much of it is low-lying delta, more than half of the districts were under water. [...]

In Nepal, unremitting rains for the last two weeks flooded swaths of the heavily populated southern plains, known as the Terai Region, on the border with India. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that up to 300,000 people were in need of water, food and other basic supplies. [...]

Nepal, too, is accustomed to floods each year. But the unusually heavy rains this year seem to have affected more of the country, and with rainwater pooling up and refusing to recede, fragile mud buildings are threatened, and the likelihood of an outbreak of water-borne diseases like diarrhea also increases. [...]

In India, the monsoon’s trail of destruction traveled to the north and northeast last week. [...] The military was deployed to the worst affected states, including Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where more than 12 million people have been affected by flooding over the last week. The Indian Air Force air-dropped food packets to displaced people in Bihar on Saturday, where 70,000 houses were damaged, according to the Press Trust of India [...]

Pakistan has already had its turn with flooding. In July rains in Baluchistan and Sindh provinces, the death toll reached 329 and 90,000 families were made homeless, the United Nations said.
CNN's report was a bit more "personal":
Women and children were spotted screaming for help from treetops in Uttar Pradesh. In parts of the state, river levels rose so quickly that villagers had no time to save any belongings.

"The gush of water was so sudden we did not get the time to react," Vinod Kumar, a resident of a flooded village in Basti district, told Enadu TV.

One woman in Uttar Pradesh who identified herself only as Savitra said she had not "eaten anything for the last two days."