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Millions displaced and dozens killed in floods in India and Bangladesh

NEW DELHI – Heavy pre-monsoon rains in India and Bangladesh have washed away railway stations, towns and villages, leaving millions homeless as extreme weather events including heat waves, intense rains and floods, are becoming more frequent in South Asia.

More than 60 people were killed in days of floods, landslides and thunderstorms that left many without food or clean water and isolated them by shutting down the internet, officials said.

The devastation in northeast India, one of the hardest hit regions, has overwhelmed railways, bridges and roads. In the remote state of Assam, 31 of its 33 districts have been hit by floods, impacting the lives of more than 700,000 people, officials said on Saturday. At least 18 people have already died in the state due to flooding and landslides, according to news reports.

At least 33 people have been killed in neighboring Bihar state by lightning strikes and heavy rain across its 16 districts, Nitish Kumarthe chief minister said on Friday.

Climatologists have said India and Bangladesh are particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their proximity to the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, which are experiencing increasing heat waves. Rising sea temperatures have led to “dry conditions” in parts of the Indian subcontinent and “significant increase in rainfall” in other regions, according to a study published in January by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. from Pune.

India’s meteorological service on Sunday warned of “thunderstorms with lightning and very heavy rain” in many parts of the country’s remote northeast where the Brahmaputra, one of the world’s largest rivers, flooded large areas of farmland, villages and towns in the past. a few weeks.

Floodwaters from the Brahmaputra and other rivers have rushed into Bangladesh, a low-lying nation of about 170 million people, where extreme rainfall and landslides have swept away a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp for the night of last year. In 2020, torrential rains submerged at least a quarter of the country.

Around two million people have been affected in the eastern region of Sylhet in what authorities describe as one of the worst floods in many years.

“We haven’t seen such widespread flooding in Sylhet for about two decades,” Bangladesh Water Development Board chief engineer SM Shahidul Islam said on Sunday.

“Heavy rainfall and increased flow of flood waters through the Surma River are the main reason for this situation,” Islam said, explaining that dams in the area are unable to retain flood waters which began to flow into the cities.

At least 10 people have been killed in the area, most drowned after their boats capsized as they tried to move to safer areas, officials said on Sunday. “We are still working to see if there are more casualties,” said Mosharraf Hossain, the top official in the Sylhet region.

Roads cut by flooding have made relief efforts difficult, officials said. But the devastation left millions with nothing.

“The flooding situation is terrible in our village of Zakiganj,” said 29-year-old Mahmudul Hasan, who had taken refuge with six members of his family in Sylhet.

The family received no food or water, Mr. Hasan said. And he said he was constantly worried about his house. “Our house is made of mud,” he explained.

The government of Bangladesh has indefinitely closed nearly 600 schools and colleges to use as safe havens for those with nowhere to go. At least 3,000 hectares of rice paddies have been destroyed by the floods, which are expected to affect the livelihoods of thousands of farmers, officials said.

Karan Deep Sing reported from New Delhi, and Saif Hasnat reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh.


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