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‘Unprecedented’ rainfall causes deaths in India and Bangladesh

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A woman seeking shelter wades through floodwater with her children during heavy rain in Sylhet, Bangladesh, yesterday. Picture by Abdul Goni/Reuters

A woman seeking shelter wades through floodwater with her children during heavy rain in Sylhet, Bangladesh, yesterday. Picture by Abdul Goni/Reuters

A woman seeking shelter wades through floodwater with her children during heavy rain in Sylhet, Bangladesh, yesterday. Picture by Abdul Goni/Reuters

At least 18 people have died as devastating floods ravaged northeastern India and Bangladesh, leaving millions of homes underwater and severing transport links, authorities said yesterday.

In India’s Assam state, at least nine people were killed in the floods and two million others saw their homes submerged, according to the state disaster management agency.

Lightning in parts of neighbouring Bangladesh killed nine people last Friday.

Both countries have asked their defence forces for help as more flooding looms with rains expected to continue over the weekend.

The Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s biggest 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 ’til 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 the incessant downpour over the past five days. In southern Assam’s Haflong town, the railway station was underwater and flooded rivers deposited mud and silt along the rail tracks.

India’s army has been mobilised to help disaster response agencies in rescuing stranded people and providing food and other essentials. Soldiers used speedboats and inflatable rafts to navigate submerged areas.

In Bangladesh, districts near the Indian border have been worst affected. Water levels in all major rivers across the country were rising, according to the flood forecasting and warning centre in Dhaka. The country has about 130 rivers.

The centre 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 Osmani International Airport in Sylhet have been suspended for three days as floodwaters have almost reached the runway.

Last month, a pre-monsoon flash flood, triggered by a rush 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 when fresh rains flooded the same areas again this week.

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


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