River washes away 25 villages

The Jamuna River burst its banks and surged through 25 villages while residents slept in northern Bangladesh, killing at least 13 people—mostly children—as homes, crops and trees were washed away, officials said on Thursday.

The toll from annual monsoon flooding—fed by melting snow and torrential rains in South Asia—reached 339 for the region that includes India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.

About 10 000 villagers were washed out of their flimsy homes as the Jamuna surged through the mud embankment in Bogra district while people slept early on Wednesday, relief officials said.

“The flood waters came roaring into our house and we had little time to flee,” Parveen Aktar, a woman in Dhunat village was quoted as saying by Dhaka’s Daily Star daily newspaper.

“I held them tight, but they were swept away,” Aktar said, mourning her two young children who drowned in the flood.

Dhaka’s Ittefaq newspaper reported that the breach left at least 100 people missing and damaged about 3 000 tin-mud-and-straw houses in Bogra district, 176km north of the national capital, Dhaka.

At least eight of those killed on Wednesday were drowned in two other northern districts, Sirajganj and Jamalpur, United News of Bangladesh said.

Monsoon floods have engulfed 25 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts, leaving nearly five million people stranded and 68 dead since late last month, officials said.

Rivers surrounding the capital swelled further on Thursday, flooding some low-lying areas of the city.

Millions across South Asia have been left stranded—enduring hunger and disease—as the floodwaters have washed away homes, roads and telecommunications links.

There have been 197 reported deaths in India, 69 in Nepal and five in Pakistan.

The deaths have come from landslides, building collapses, drowning, electrocution and waterborne disease such as diarrhea, caused by drinking polluted water that has inundated wells.

In India’s eastern Bihar state flood waters seeped into the jail in Laher Sarai town three days ago, forcing authorities to move prisoners from cells on the ground floor.

“Some prisoners seem to have taken advantage of this and escaped,” said Rajeev Kumar, the top administrator of Darbhanga district, where Laher Sarai is located.

Kumar said a head count on Wednesday revealed that 34 prisoners were missing. There were 600 prisoners in the jail before the flooding occurred, he said.

The town of Laher Sarai has been flooded by the swollen Bagmati River, which originates from the Himalayas in Nepal. As the river continued to swell with more rains, jail authorities planned to evacuate all prisoners.

The prisoners would be granted bail, or shifted to a jail elsewhere in the state, said Ravi Kant, in charge of prisons in Bihar, India’s worst-hit region, where 89 people have died.

“We cannot allow the prisoners to die,” Kant said.—Sapa-AP

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