Aid workers struggle against mud, hunger and disease as toll mounts in Bangladesh

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The Independent Online

Millions of people are battling hunger and homelessness in flood-devastated Bangladesh and eastern India as annual monsoon rains continued westward.

Millions of people are battling hunger and homelessness in flood-devastated Bangladesh and eastern India as annual monsoon rains continued westward.

Mudslides triggered by heavy rains entered a tunnel at the Tehri power project in northern India yesterday, killing 11 workers and injuring 10.

Another five people died when the roof of their house collapsed near Ahmadabad in western India. And eight bodies surfaced as waters receded in the eastern state of Bihar, a relief officer said.

In Bangladesh, 39 more deaths were reported yesterday, nine from the diarrhoea that is spreading as waters recede, leaving behind sewage and filth. Nearly two-thirds of the country was submerged by the worst flooding in six years. The new deaths raised the toll in six weeks across South Asia to 1,627.

The devastation, however, is far from over. Heavy rains are expected in northern and western Indian states over the next week, while in the eastern states and Bangladesh hundreds of thousands are in need of shelter and food.

"In my village, people have lost everything; food stocks, homes, livelihood, everything," said Sudhir Jha, a government worker in Bihar, where floods have destroyed 50,000 houses.

The state government in Bihar has yet to estimate how many people were battling hunger. A relief officer said the figure would run into millions.

In Bangladesh, where flooding has killed at least 628 people, the government said 20 million - or one-seventh of its population - would need food aid over the next five months.

The UN World Food Programme hopes to supply food to nearly two million Bangladeshis and plans to launch a major emergency operation for millions more.

Bangladesh's textile industry, which provides nearly 80 per cent of its export earnings, has been badly disrupted and the overall flood damage could total $6.7bn (£3.7bn).

Unicef launched an appeal yesterday to raise $13.4m for Bangladesh.

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