Floods in India and Bangladesh leave millions homeless and 18 dead

Dhaka, Bangladesh — Army troops have been called in to rescue thousands of people stranded by massive floods that have ravaged northeast India and Bangladesh, leaving millions of homes under water and cutting transport links , authorities said on Saturday.

In the Indian state of Assam, at least nine people have been killed in the floods and 2 million have seen their homes submerged, according to the national disaster management agency. Lightning strikes in parts of neighboring Bangladesh have killed at least nine people since Friday.

Both countries have asked their armies for help as further flooding looms and rains are expected to continue over the weekend.

In Sylhet, in northeast Bangladesh, on the banks of the Surma River, children sat at the window of a flooded house while other family members gathered on a bed inside their house flooded, some wondering how to overcome the ordeal.

“How can we eat (in this state)?” said Anjuman Ara Begum, standing in the water inside her kitchen. “We live on muri (puffed rice) and chira (rolled rice) and other things given by people. What else can we do? We don’t know how to cook.

Flights at Osmani International Airport in Sylhet were suspended for three days as floodwaters nearly reached the runway, according to Hafiz Ahmed, the airport manager. The Sylhet Sunamganj highway was also flooded but motorbikes were running.

According to the flood forecasting and warning center in Dhaka, the capital, the water level of all major rivers in the country was rising. The country has about 130 rivers.

The center said the flood situation is likely to deteriorate in the worst affected districts of Sunamganj and Sylhet in the North Eastern region as well as Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Rangpur districts in northern Bangladesh.

The Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, breached its mud dykes, inundating 3,000 villages and farmlands in 28 of Assam’s 33 districts across the Indian border.

“We are expecting moderate to heavy rain in several parts of Assam until Sunday. The amount of rainfall has been unprecedented,” said Sanjay O’Neil, a weather station official from Gauhati, the capital. of Assam.

Several rail services have been canceled in India amid relentless downpours for the past five days. In the town of Haflong in southern Assam, the railway station was under water and flooded rivers deposited mud and silt alongside the train tracks.

The Indian Army has been mobilized to help disaster response agencies rescue stranded people and deliver food and other essentials. Soldiers used speedboats and inflatable rafts to navigate submerged areas.

Last month, a pre-monsoon flash flood, triggered by an upstream rush in India’s northeastern states, hit northern and northeastern parts of Bangladesh, destroying crops and damaging houses and roads. The country was just beginning to recover when further 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, exacerbated by climate change. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, around 17% of Bangladesh’s people are expected to be displaced within the next decade if global warming persists at the current rate.


Hussain reported from Gauhati, India.

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