6 die in Assam floods while New Delhi heatwave kills 5 this week

Published June 19, 2024
A woman waits for customers as she sells vegetables as her husband sleeps inside their road-side shop on a hot summer day during the heatwave, in New Delhi, India on June 18, 2024. — Reuters
A woman waits for customers as she sells vegetables as her husband sleeps inside their road-side shop on a hot summer day during the heatwave, in New Delhi, India on June 18, 2024. — Reuters

India was battling on Wednesday extreme weather that caused severe heatwaves, landslides and floods, killing at least 11 people this week, among them a woman and her three daughters buried alive in a northeastern state, officials and media said.

The capital, New Delhi, sweltered through its hottest June night in six years on Tuesday, with hospitals in the city of 20 million reporting at least five deaths from heatstroke this week, the Times of India newspaper said.

Its power consumption touched an all-time high on Tuesday, when the minimum nighttime temperature reached 33.8 degrees Celsius (93°F), it added.

Floods and landslides triggered by incessant rain in the northeastern state of Assam killed at least six people on Tuesday night, officials said.

“A landslide buried a woman and her three daughters alive,” a state disaster management official, Siju Das, said by telephone.

“Their house was on a slope, and they died on the spot around midnight,” he said, adding that the bodies were retrieved after a three-hour search operation by rescuers. “A three-year-old was killed too.”

Billions across Asia are grappling with extreme heat this summer in a trend scientists say has been worsened by human-driven climate change.

Since March, temperatures have soared to 50°C (122°F) in Delhi and the nearby desert state of Rajasthan, while more than twice the usual number of heatwave days were recorded this season in the country’s northwest and east.

These conditions stemmed from fewer thundershowers, as well as warm winds blowing in from neighbouring arid regions.

In Assam, more than 160,000 people were affected, with waters surpassing the danger level in the Kopili, one of the largest tributaries of the Brahmaputra, which ranks among India’s biggest rivers.

More than 30 people in the state have died since the end of May in floods and landslides brought by heavy rain, officials said.

Landslides kill 9 in Bangladesh

 A rickshaw driver sits inside his rickshaw to take cover from rain during a downpour in Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 13, 2024. — Reuters
A rickshaw driver sits inside his rickshaw to take cover from rain during a downpour in Dhaka, Bangladesh on June 13, 2024. — Reuters

Separately, torrential rains in Bangladesh have triggered landslides burying alive at least nine people and forcing thousands to flee to higher ground, police and government officials in the low-lying nation said on Wednesday.

Schools have been turned into shelters for those abandoning their homes to rising river waters, while more than a million people have been stranded in northern areas.

Bangladesh, a nation of around 170 million people, is among the countries most vulnerable to disasters and climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

The annual monsoon rains cause widespread destruction every year, but experts say climate change is shifting weather patterns and increasing the number of extreme weather events.

“At least 700,000 people have been stranded by flash floods and heavy rains in Sylhet district, and another 500,000 people in neighbouring Sunamganj district,” Abu Ahmed Siddique, commissioner of Bangladesh’s northeastern Sylhet district, told AFP.

Those killed in landslides were in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district. Eight were Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar, and the other was from Bangladesh, said Amir Jafar, a police official in command of security in the camps.

“They were sleeping in their shelters when heavy rains overnight triggered the landslides in five spots of the camps,” Jafar told AFP. “They were buried under the mud.”

He said hundreds of refugees had been moved from areas deemed at risk. “The rain is still going on,” he said.

About one million Rohingya live in makeshift shelters of bamboo and tarpaulins in dozens of scattered camps cut out of cleared forest land on the slopes of small hills, where landslides are a regular threat.

In Sylhet, lashing rain and rivers swollen by flooding upstream in India also swamped heavily populated areas.

“More than 17,000 people have been taken to shelters only in Sylhet district,” senior local government official Sheikh Russel Hasan said, warning rivers were still rising.

Much of Bangladesh is made up of deltas as the Himalayan rivers of the Ganges and Brahmaputra slowly wind towards the sea. Floods in 2022 in Sylhet were some of the worst on record, leaving millions stranded and around a hundred killed.

Towhidul Islam, chief administrative officer of Gowainghat, part of Sylhet, said the river had risen two centimetres (0.7 inches) in the first three hours after dawn.

“If the rain and water level continues to increase, the situation will get worse, like 2022”, Islam told AFP.

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