By Patrick Fuller, IFRC
In recent days and weeks, severe monsoon rains have led to landslides and flash floods causing death and destruction across large swathes of South Asia. In Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan - millions of people have been affected and massive damage has been caused to homes and local infrastructure.
Across India, the south-west monsoon has triggered floods affecting more than 3 million people with the death toll rising to over 1,000 across the worst-affected States of Assam, Bihar, Meghalaya, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
More recently, four days of intense rains has led to the worst flooding in 50 years in the Indian region of Jammu and Kashmir. Armed forces have been conducting a massive search and rescue effort to reach thousands of people who remain cut off. Many parts of Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar remain underwater after the river Jhelum breached its banks. Thousands of people are marooned on their rooftops with no access to food or clean water. Volunteers from the Indian Red Cross Society have been supporting evacuation efforts, rescuing stranded people and taking them to temporary evacuation centers. Emergency supplies including tents, blankets, kitchen sets and tarpaulins have been airlifted by the Red Cross to Srinagar but arterial roads between main towns have been submerged and bridges washed away, preventing aid convoys from reaching affected areas.
In neighboring Pakistan heavy rains in the past two weeks caused four major rivers in the north and east of the country - the Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Jhelum – to burst their banks, bringing flash floods to regions of the Punjab, Gilgit, Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) regions. Over 200 people have died and more than 28,000 more affected.
The Pakistan Red Crescent Society has been closely monitoring the situation and has deployed disaster response teams to affected provinces to distribute relief assistance. Based on preliminary assessment reports, the Red Crescent is planning to support 35,000 people with food and non-food items, health services and emergency shelter.
Since early August heavy rains in Nepal have brought flooding and landslides in 21 districts throughout the country. 250,000 people were affected at the peak of the floods which prompted the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to launch an international appeal to help the Nepal Red Cross Society provide relief and recovery support to some 50,000 people. So far, the society has reached more than 25,000 people with non-food relief items, including clean water, improved sanitation and emergency shelter. While Nepal regularly experiences localized flooding during the monsoon season, this is the worst situation experienced since the Koshi river floods in 2008.
The IFRC is also preparing to launch an appeal for floods in Bangladesh. Since the second week of August, heavy rainfall in the main river basins and upstream catchments of India, as well as the northwest and north-eastern parts of Bangladesh, have led to flooding mainly across 20 districts in the North of the country leaving more than 325,000 people displaced from their homes.
Over 150 staff and volunteers of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society have been deployed and have so far provided emergency relief and medical care to over 20,000 people. The situation is described as the worst flooding since the ‘mega floods’ in 2007, when more than 10 million people were affected.
“The monsoon always brings flooding, but the volume of rainfall in different parts of the region has been extremely high in recent weeks,” says Simon Missiri, head of the IFRC’s regional office for South Asia, adding, “The human cost in these situations can always be reduced with better early warnings and greater investment in pre-positioning emergency supplies where they can quickly be distributed.”