Attention is on Harvey, but flooding has killed thousands across Asia video

A woman walks through a flooded village in Motihari, Bihar State, India.
CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS

A woman walks through a flooded village in Motihari, Bihar State, India.

Skies, streams and seas have unleashed tragedies around the world this month, forcing us to reckon once more with the deadly power of weather and water.

While we watch and react to the devastation wrought by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey across Southeast Texas and Louisiana, we should also spare a thought for the floods that have each taken more than a thousand lives in Sierra Leone and South Asia.

Local officials in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, said this week that the death toll from floods and mudslides triggered by intense overnight rainfall on August 14 had passed 1000. The combined death toll from floods amid ongoing and unusually severe monsoon rains in Nepal, India and Bangladesh has surpassed 1200.

People wait to be rescued from a flooded village in the eastern state of Bihar, India.
CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS

People wait to be rescued from a flooded village in the eastern state of Bihar, India.

The United Nations said that 41 million people in those three countries were affected in one way or another by the floods. (On the flip side, relentless drought in Somalia and neighbouring Ethiopia has left hundreds of thousands dependent on food aid to avert a famine.)

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These calamities elsewhere have been exacerbated by a lack of prevention infrastructure, like levees, as well as widespread deforestation, which promotes soil erosion. Many of the affected are also among their country's poorest and live in areas particularly susceptible to mudslides (on densely packed urban hillsides) and torrential rain (on the flood plains of rivers that seasonally overflow).

A girl stands in front of a house at the flood affected area in Saptari District, Nepal.
NAVESH CHITRAKAR/REUTERS

A girl stands in front of a house at the flood affected area in Saptari District, Nepal.

The death toll from floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal has climbed above 1200, officials said on Friday, as rescue workers scramble to provide aid to millions of people stranded by the worst such disaster in years.

All three countries suffer frequent flooding during the June-September monsoon season, but international aid agencies say things are worse this year with thousands of villages cut off and people deprived of food and clean water for days.

Government officials in India's eastern state of Bihar said at least 379 people had been killed over the past few days, with thousands sheltered in relief camps away from their inundated homes.

A boy walks along the flooded area in Saptari District, Nepal.
NAVESH CHITRAKAR/REUTERS

A boy walks along the flooded area in Saptari District, Nepal.

"This year farming has collapsed due to floods and we will witness a sharp rise in unemployment," said Anirudh Kumar, a disaster management official in Patna, the capital of poor Bihar state known for mass migration to cities in search of jobs.

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In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, at least 88 people were killed when floods swamped nearly half of the vast state of 220 million people.

Rajan Kumar, a federal interior ministry official in New Delhi overseeing the rescue and relief operations, said at least 850 people had been killed in six flood-affected states in the past month.

Houses are seen flooded in Gaibandha, Bangladesh.
MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAIN/REUTERS

Houses are seen flooded in Gaibandha, Bangladesh.

"A second wave of floods led to widespread destruction," he said. "We will have to provide immediate rehabilitation aid to help millions affected directly."

In Nepal, 150 people have been killed and 90,000 homes destroyed in what the United Nations is calling the worst flooding there in a decade.

In Bangladesh, at least 134 people have died and more than 5.7 million been affected directly as monsoon flooding submerged more than a third of the low-lying and densely populated country.

Crops on 26,151 acres have been washed away while another 1,484,082 acres of farmland have been partially damaged, according the disaster ministry, in a big blow to the farm-dependent country which lost around 1 million tonnes of rice in flash floods in April.

"I could not find a single dry patch of land," said Matthew Marek, the head of disaster response in Bangladesh for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, who made an aerial assessment of the worst affected parts of the country.

"Farmers are left with nothing, not even with clean drinking water."

- Washington Post, Reuters

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