Floods leave millions homeless in Bangladesh and India

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The Independent Online

Soldiers in India and Bangladesh joined volunteers Monday to evacuate millions of people washed out of their homes by torrential rains and floods that have killed nearly 400 people in the two countries in a week.

Soldiers in India and Bangladesh joined volunteers Monday to evacuate millions of people washed out of their homes by torrential rains and floods that have killed nearly 400 people in the two countries in a week.

Late monsoon rains sent sudden rushes of water over riverbanks and dams, submerging highways and the homes of more than 10 million in eastern India and 200,000 in Bangladesh.

The flood region is 230 kilometers (145 miles) northwest of the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, and along the border of India's West Bengal state.

Soldiers and relief workers struggled to bring food and medicine to the stranded villagers.

"The task is gigantic. There are many villages that have been cut off as floods inundated roads," said Sohel Ahsan, a relief worker in Bangladesh.

Hungry villagers attacked a police station in the village of Debagram in West Bengal to get food, the United News of India said. Police fired their guns in the air to disperse the crowd, the news agency added.

Mobs also beat up railway officials and snatched goods from a relief train in the village of Guptipara in West Bangel, UNI quoted unidentified Eastern Railway sources as saying.

With most train services across the state disrupted by the floods, Indian Airlines was operating more flights, UNI said.

Waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and fever also have broken out in the flood-hit areas, Dhaka's Janakantha newspaper reported.

Of the 388 people killed, 265 were in West Bengal, where people were perched on the remains of wooden huts, or had to hold hands to wade across water-logged roadways.

However, UNI put the death toll in the state at 487, citing figures from various government departments.

Another 108 people died in Bihar province in eastern India, the Press Trust of India said. All the major rivers were flowing above the danger mark in Bihar, the Central Water Commission said.

In Bangladesh, six people, including a child, drowned Sunday in the hardest hit districts of Chuadanga and Jhenidah, raising the country's death toll from the weeklong floodings to 15, said Mohammad Kamrul Islam, a government administrator in the region.

Swirling flood waters damaged or washed away about 40,000 mud-and-straw huts, leaving at least 200,000 people homeless in the districts of Meherpur, Chuadanga, Chapainawabganj, Jhenidah and Rajshahi in northwestern Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered the army and paramilitary troops to join relief and rescue work. The soldiers and relief workers struggled to reach the tens of thousands of people marooned in their submerged villages, and many people used boats or waded through water to reach high grounds.

"The situation is very grave. The homeless people are overcrowding the few school buildings in the area," Shah Alam, a reporter for Dhaka's Prothom Aloo newspaper, said after visiting villages in Meherpur district.

The homeless have taken shelter on mud embankments and in school buildings. Many have reached the overcrowded towns, Alam said.

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