At least 41 dead, millions stranded as floods hit Bangladesh, India

At least 41 dead, millions stranded as floods hit Bangladesh, India

Floods are a regular menace to millions of people in low-lying Bangladesh

Monsoon storms in Bangladesh and India have killed at least 41 people and unleashed devastating floods that left millions of others stranded, officials said Saturday.

Floods are a regular menace to millions of people in low-lying Bangladesh, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency, ferocity and unpredictability.

Relentless downpours over the past week have inundated vast stretches of Bangladesh's northeast, with troops deployed to evacuate households cut off from neighbouring communities.

Schools have been turned into relief shelters to house entire villages inundated in a matter of hours by rivers that suddenly burst their banks.

"The whole village went under water by early Friday and we all got stranded," said Lokman, whose family lives in Companiganj village.

"The whole village went under water by early on Friday and we all got stranded," said Lokman, whose family lives in Companyganj village.

"After waiting whole day on the roof of our home, a neighbour rescued us with a makeshift boat. My mother said she has never seen such floods in her entire life," the 23-year-old added.

Asma Akter, another woman rescued from the rising waters, said her family had not been able to eat for two days.

"The water rose so quickly we couldn't bring any of our things," she said. "And how can you cook anything when everything is underwater?"

Both countries have asked the military to help with the severe flooding, which could worsen because rains are expected to continue over the weekend.

The Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, breached its mud embankments, inundating 3,000 villages and croplands in 28 of Assam’s 33 districts.

"We expect moderate to heavy rainfall in several parts of Assam till Sunday. The volume of rainfall has been unprecedented,” said Sanjay O’Neil, an official at the meteorological station in Gauhati, Assam’s capital.

Several train services were cancelled in India amid incessant rains over the past five days. In southern Assam’s Haflong town, the railway station was under water and flooded rivers deposited mud and silt along the rail tracks.

India's army has been asked to help other disaster response agencies rescue stranded people and provide food and essentials to those whose houses are submerged under floodwaters.

"We are using speedboats and inflatable rafts to rescue flood-hit people,” an army official said.

In Bangladesh, districts near the Indian border have been worst affected.

At least 41 dead, millions stranded as floods hit Bangladesh, India
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Water levels in all major rivers across the country were rising, according to the flood forecasting and warning center in Dhaka, the nation’s capital. The country has about 130 rivers.

The center said the flood situation is likely to deteriorate in the worst-hit Sunamganj and Sylhet districts in the northeastern region as well as in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Rangpur districts in northern Bangladesh.

Flight operations at the Osmani International Airport in Sylhet have been suspended for three days as floodwaters have almost reached the runway, according to Hafiz Ahmed, the airport manager.

Last month, a pre-monsoon flash flood, triggered by an onrush of water from upstream in India’s northeastern states, hit Bangladesh’s northern and northeastern regions, destroying crops and damaging homes and roads. The country was just starting to recover from that shock when fresh rains flooded the same areas again this week.

Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, is low-lying and faces threats from climate change-related natural disasters such as floods and cyclones. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, about 17% of people in Bangladesh would need to be relocated over the next decade or so if global warming persists at the present rate.

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