South Asia struck by floods and drought

تم النشر: 30 يوليه 2002 0:00 CET

Bijoy Patro in Delhi

Incessant rains and accompanying landslides have claimed some 400 lives so far across the South Asia region with many more people still missing. The highest casualty figures come from Nepal where 286 people are reported dead so far and another 61 missing. The numbers are rising with every passing hour as more details come from far-flung districts.

Forty-six people died in eastern Nepal's Khotang district when a landslide followed torrential rain. The Kathmandu valley recorded the highest rainfall in 30 years, resulting not only in death, but also leaving hundreds of families homeless.

"Relief materials from our warehouses have been dispatched to the district chapters," says Bishnu Hari Devkota, head of the Nepal Red Cross Disaster Department. "But the distribution is being hampered because roads have been wiped out or buried under several feet of mud."

In neighbouring India, nearly 10 million people have been affected by floods in the states of Assam and Bihar, according to the country's National Disaster Management (NDM) division. Nearly 260 people have died in floods since the monsoon season began in India at the end of June.

The situation is deteriorating rapidly in Bihar. According to NDM sources, more than 7.25 million people are affected by the floods in Bihar today, up from just over 6 million yesterday.

In India's north-east, more than 2.8 million people have been affected by floods in the state of Assam. Flood waters have been receding and the state branch of the Indian Red Cross is now assessing the situation. State branch officials are being joined by representatives from the International Federation and the Indian Red Cross national headquarters.

The Assam state branch is distributing 10,000 family kits in the affected areas. Water purification tablets are also being provided to the affected people while those in relief camps along river embankments are, in addition being given high protein biscuits, tarpaulins and medical services.

In Bihar, the state branch has launched an appeal to seek local funding in support of its relief operation. The state branch has also sought 30,000 family packs from the Indian Red Cross national headquarters in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, flood waters from Nepal and India are also reaching Bangladesh, with vast parts of the countryside being inundated. The Bangladesh Red Crescent and Federation are closely monitoring the situation through regular contact with Bangladesh Red Crescent branches in the field, sharing information and co-ordinating with the disaster emergency group members including the government and UN organizations.

The Red Crescent is also currently organizing the distribution of 140 metric tones of rice, 600 family kits and high protein biscuits recently donated by the Norwegian Red Cross in the north, north-eastern and south-eastern districts of Noakhali, Kurigram, Jamalpur, Siraghanj, Rangpur, Surnamganj and three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The relief will reach 7,000 families.

Ironically, while the monsoon rain floods parts of India, Nepal and Assam, a large part of the subcontinent remains untouched by rain. Part of this rain shallow region extends across Nepal and India.

"The districts located in the eastern and central part of Nepal have been severely affected by floods and landslides. On the contrary, there is no rainfall in the far-western part of the kingdom," says Bishnu Hari Devkota. "We have to prepare for a drought situation that is coming up in this region."

The humanitarian situation arising out of the drought in Nepal is not very different, with the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka states in India also declaring a drought.

The country's capital, New Delhi, is facing its worst water crisis in recent memory as scant rain has sent the water table dipping to seven metres. The situation is similar in many other parts of the country.

Related Links:

25 July 2002 - South Asia Information Bulletin: Monsoon flooding and landslides
South Asia - Annual Appeal 2002-2003