DHAKA/NEW DELHI, July 7: Devastating floods and torrential monsoon rains have left at least 100 people dead and an estimated one million homeless in Bangladesh, officials said Monday, as the country braced itself for further torrents.
Scores have also been reported missing after the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries submerged hundreds of villages in the worst affected Rangpur region in the North.
The national Flood Warning Centre in the capital Dhaka said more flooding and landslides could be on the way. The official flood death toll climbed to 100 after eight more deaths were reported overnight. These include five children who were drowned in the surging waters in Rangpur.
Earlier, officials said 47 out of 64 administrative districts of the country were partially affected by the seasonal floods.
India’s Central Water Commission warned the main Brahmaputra river — which flows through Assam and into Bangladesh — continues to rise dangerously.
Bangladeshi officials said the army and police rescuers were put on a state of high alert in the face of threats from collapsing dams.
In India’s Assam Sarkar said, “We have not called out the arm, but they are on alert. We fear trouble in a few districts like Dhemaji, where the district administration can seek army help if required”.
Deputy Secretary in Assam’s Revenue Department M Thakuria told dpa that relief measures were proceeding smoothly. “We are distributing rice, pulses and salt. Pumps and tube wells are being installed in areas where there is water shortage and the health department is distributing medicines to ward off water-borne diseases.”
Meanwhile seven people, including five children, died after being struck by lightning in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, police said Monday.
Four children were struck by lightning during a furious storm in the state’s Badera village, the United News of India news agency reported.
In a separate incident, three others, including a 10-year-old child, died in the same village after lightning struck.
RELIEF MEASURES: Bangladeshi and Indian officials rushed on Monday to put together relief plans for more than 1.2 million people left homeless by floods, as the rising waters killed another five people and more rain was forecast for the coming days.
The unofficial death toll rose to 65 in Bangladesh after five children drowned over the weekend, the mass-circulation Daily Ittefaq reported Monday. At least 14 of the country’s 64 districts have been hit by floods spreading south from India towards the Bay of Bengal.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia held emergency talks on the floods late Sunday and asked officials to step up monitoring of the situation, with their reports expected in a few days.
Aides told her there was adequate aid, including food, in stock to handle the floods, which submerge vast swathes of the deltaic country each year.
“The situation is under control and not serious,” one official said despite the rising waters.
In northeastern India, floods have claimed nine lives since last month, with another 69 people reported dead from outbreaks of malaria and Japanese encephalitis caused by the muddy waters.
The worst-hit area is the Dhemaji district in the state of Assam, 460 kilometers east of the provincial capital Guwahati, where at least 100 more villages came under water late Sunday when floodwaters breached a 500-meter mud embankment.
With Dhemaji accessible only by boat for nearly a month, residents complained that relief operations were haphazard.
“People will start dying of hunger and disease unless essentials are air-dropped and medical teams rushed in to treat people suffering from malaria and other water-borne ailments,” Dhemaji lawmaker Dilip Saikia told AFP by telephone.
“People in the area are passing days like cats and dogs eating and drinking whatever available,” he said.
Local officials said relief supplies were merely 400 grams of rice each day to each adult.
“The government should provide at least some salt and pulses, otherwise how can you expect people to eat just rice and nothing else?” Saikia asked.
Officials said floods would only grow worse in Assam, where at least 19 of 24 districts have been struck by floods and more than one million have been left homeless. The floods have forced an estimated 200,000 from their homes in the eastern Indian state of Bihar as well as affecting thousands more in other parts of northeastern India and Bangladesh, local authorities said.
“The situation continues to be critical with heavy rains lashing the region. We expect more devastation in the next couple of days,” Assam’s Revenue Minister Mithias Tudu told AFP.
Similar forecasts were made in Bangladesh, where the heaviest rains are still to come.
According to a Bangladeshi government meteorological forecast, rain will be at least 20 percent heavier in July than normal for the month, with two areas of low pressure over the Bay of Bengal flooding more of the country.
Bangladesh’s four-month full monsoon, when the average monthly rainfall varies from 1,194 to 3,454 millimetres starts this month.—dpa