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South Asia Grapples With Results of Flooding

Photo: Prashant Ravi/Associated Press

SOUTH ASIA - UNUSUALLY HEAVY rains across South Asia this week left a trail of death and ruin and raised the risk of disease. 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. In Bangladesh, perennially inundated because so much of it is low-lying delta, more than half of the districts were under water. Bangladesh received just under 29 inches of rain in July, about double the average. Bangladesh also felt the brunt of greater rain upstream in northern and northeastern India, as swollen rivers broke through their banks on their way down to the Bay of Bengal. 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. 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.

Photo: Villagers in Bihar State, India, received relief packages dropped by helicopter. The flooding in Bihar washed away homes, crops and cattle.

Aid agencies in Nepal have already nearly exhausted their supplies of food and other goods, although the monsoon season is not expected to end for at least another month. 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. In India, the monsoon’s trail of destruction traveled to the north and northeast last week.

The flooding is the WORST IN THREE DECADES. "The flood situation is very, very serious, the situation we have now is UNPRECEDENTED in the past 30 years."
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