At least 160 people have been killed in devastating floods and landslides that have struck Nepal and northern India. Officials are now concerned about the possible spread of disease, particularly cholera.
In Nepal, officials say at least 101 people have died, and 130 people are still missing. In the north of India, entire villages have been cut off and families are desperately waiting for emergency supplies of food and water.
Jhanka Nath Dhakal, an official with Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Centre, said four helicopters with food, emergency supplies and medicine had been dispatched villages in the west of the country.
He told the Associated Press that teams were also trying to reach these areas by road but that many of the major routes had been damaged by the flooding.
Teams of emergency workers have also been trying to recover bodies from the aftermath of the flooding in an effort to prevent the spread of disease. Authorities fear the lack of clean drinking water, food and sanitation could lead to outbreak of cholera, dysentery and encephalitis.
Thousands of people in impoverished western Nepal have been left without shelter and cut off from the rest of the country since heavy seasonal rains hit last week.
Meanwhile, in India’s state of Uttar Pradesh, which neighbours Nepal, the death toll is approaching 30 as a result of flooding that left many thousands homeless. In the northern state of Bihar, officials said two people had been killed.
In the north-eastern Assam state, the water level on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries has risen sharply, flooding large areas and killing one person, said the the Press Trust of India newsagency.
The monsoon rains that hit the subcontinent every year are a source of vital, life-sustaining water that is used to replenish aquifers and irrigate crops. But they also result in widespread flooding and deaths.
Many villages, containing homes constructed form little more than mud and branches, are routinely destroyed or else cut off by flood waters. The authorities are routinely accused of being slow to respond.
Last year, there was particularly intense rainfall and more than 5,000 people were killed by floods that struck the state of Uttarakhand. Heavy deforestation over the last few decades has made the area more vulnerable to landslides.