Dhaka's new aid plea as floods spread

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The Independent Online
THE BANGLADESHI government again appealed to the outside world for emergency aid yesterday as water streaming down from the hills in the north flooded six more districts of the country and road links between Dhaka and the main port, Chittagong, remained severed.

Reiterating the plea made by Sams Khibria, the Finance Minister, at the weekend, a Ministry official said that $879m(pounds 500m)was needed urgently to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of people made homeless in the floods.

More than two thirds of the country is now under water; more than 600 people have been drowned or killed and some 30m people, one quarter of the population, has been affected.

So far foreign donors have committed about pounds 38m. America has promised 200,000 tons of food grain, with the possibility of another 200,000 tons to follow.

The flood, which looks likely to rival 1988's as the worst in Bangladesh's history, prevented the planting of rice seedlings in July, and the nation faces a food emergency over the next three months.

There is desperate need for seeds, fertiliser, construction materials and cash to enable the farmers to rebuild their shattered homes and embankments and go back to work.

While the extent of this year's flooding may be no greater than those of 10 years ago, this time it is worse because it has gone on much longer - nearly two months - whereas in 1988 the crisis lasted less than a month. In many places starvation and drought are imminent prospects.

Flying into the country from India yesterday, the extent of the disaster was awe-inspiring.

Huge areas are almost completely inundated. Protruding trees mark the course of drowned roads and obliterated river banks; in places the huts of farming villages huddle on raised ground just clear of the water. Millions of people are camping on road verges with whatever possessions and animals they have managed to save.

The papers print poignant images of families punting themselves to safety. All basic commodities have leapt in price, adding to the misery.