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Bangladesh faces flood carnage

Flood victim
Millions of people have been left homeless by the latest flooding  

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Bangladeshi authorities are bracing for the worst as continued rains exacerbate an already serious flood situation in the impoverished nation.

Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis are now homeless as the monsoon rains swell already flooded rivers and people take refuge on what high ground they can find.

A shortage of food and drinking water is the biggest problem in stricken areas, especially for people who are clinging to their half-submerged homes in remote villages, relief officials told reporters.

The flooding has killed 13 people in Bangladesh so far and submerged more than a third of the country damaging rice crops.

While floods are not uncommon during the monsoon in Bangladesh, this year's rains are causing the worst dame in more than four years.

The rains are also affecting much of north-eastern India and Nepal.

Swollen rivers that criss-cross the densely populated region where the three countries come together has forced millions from their homes.

Helicopters and boats plucked thousands of people from swirling floodwaters.

"The situation has become critical in the worst ever flood in Assam in recent years," the chief minister of India's northeastern Assam state, Tarun Gogoi, told Reuters by phone on Saturday.

More than half the tea and oil-rich state was under water and millions of homeless people had taken refuge on raised highways and higher ground, Gogoi said, speaking from the state capital Dispur.

All the region's rivers, including the main Brahmaputra, were overflowing their banks, flood control officials said.

Infrastructure and communications remained disrupted in 18 of Assam's 23 districts and railway lines were damaged by gushing waters. Power and phone lines were washed away.

Helicopter assistance

A Nepali government official said overflowing rivers had begun to recede, but the Himalayan kingdom faced the threat of an outbreak of cholera and other diseases as massive floods polluted drinking water.

Interior Ministry official Lekhnath Pokharel told Reuters flood waters had started to ease in the hardest hit central and eastern areas of Nepal where flash floods and landslides triggered by the heaviest rains in three decades had killed at least 220 people over the past two weeks.

"But we are facing the threat of an outbreak of epidemics like cholera in the flood affected areas," Pokharel said.

Pokharel said food packets, blankets, tents and medicines had been rushed by helicopters to the affected areas.

In Assam, health officials and volunteers also feared an outbreak of disease with so many homeless people living in temporary shelters in unhygienic conditions.

"The scarcity of drinking water, clean food and the filthy living conditions are a serious cause of concern for us," Assam Health Minister Bhumidhar Burman said by phone.

Disease threat

Doctors and nurses with water purifying tablets and medicines, mostly to treat cholera and dysentery, had been sent to all affected areas, he said.

In Assam's main city of Guwahati, 30 people, including children, had drowned, police said. Once the mighty Brahmaputra overflowed its banks, parts of the city were quickly submerged.

"In the past 10 years, we have seen such floods for the second time in Guwahati," Kalyan Sharma, a local resident, told Reuters as he paddled a raft with his wife and three children to a safer place.

In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, embankments breached and floodwaters entered fresh areas, the state's relief minister Ram Vichar Rai said.

State officials said about 4.7 million people in 17 districts have been displaced by floods which has claimed 33 lives since the beginning of the week.

Reuters contributed to this report.




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