Monsoon rains batter India, China and Nepal

The death toll from Nepal’s annual monsoon flooding rose to 102 after searchers found nearly two dozen bodies in the country’s south, officials said on Thursday.

The victims died earlier this week and their bodies washed up from floodwaters in the past two days, said Durgaraj Sharma of the Natural Calamity Disaster Management Centre.

The bodies were found about 200km south-east of Katmandu.

Dozens of districts in Nepal’s southern plains bordering India have been flooded in recent weeks, while landslides have hit villages in some mountainous districts in this Himalayan kingdom, officials said.

Government officials, police, soldiers and Red Cross volunteers were distributing food, medicine and tents to those who were injured or lost their homes in the flooding.

Floods kill scores of people and leave thousands homeless in Nepal each year during the rainy season, which usually starts in early June. It began late this year and is expected to last until September.

Death toll climbs in China

Meanwhile, rescuers retrieved 10 more bodies from a deadly mudslide in Yunnan province as the death toll from China’s summer rains and floods rose to almost 400 on Thursday.

The bodies were found in the aftermath of a wall of mud crashing down on Tuesday on three villages in Yinjiang county, taking the number of dead to 12, the Xinhua news agency said.
Forty-eight people remain missing.

The latest casualties bring the overall toll from rainfall-related disasters since the beginning of the year to nearly 400, with more than 100 people missing and 45,7-million affected, according to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Four rescue teams of 400 soldiers, police and officials remain at the Yunnan site searching for the missing and ferrying rice, medicine and first-aid facilities to stranded villagers.

Weather-related deaths were reported throughout China.

In Huize county, also in Yunnan, three people were buried in a mudflow that hit a gas station on Wednesday night, Xinhua said. The three employees were sleeping in a dormitory when a river of mud pelted down a nearby mountain and devoured the building.

In Hunan province in central China, 135 000 people were left homeless after Chenxi county witnessed one of its worst floods in 100 years when the crest of Ruanjiang, the third largest branch of the Yangtze River, hit.

The floods arrived at the county early on Wednesday morning and left 445 000 local residents badly affected, Xinhua said. More than 80 people were injured and two are missing.

Since the beginning of July, intensive rainfall has hit central and eastern China with water levels in several rivers and their tributaries exceeding warning levels. Flood crests are predicted in coming days.

Since June, precipitation recorded in central and south China has been 20% to 50% higher than average, the China Daily said. In August, rainfall is expected to be higher than average in parts of north, northeast China and areas upstream of the Yellow River, the China Daily quoted Zhang Guocai, an official with the China Meteorological Administration, as saying.

He warned of “more disastrous” flooding or waterlogging to come. Three typhoons are also forecast to hit China next month.

Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday requested local governments “put people first” in their flood-control work by transferring them from endangered areas to safe places in a timely manner and providing food, clothing and shelter.

Local governments were also urged to guard against possible outbreaks of epidemic diseases in flood-stricken areas and to offer free medical treatment to the sick. Wen also called for a strengthening of monitoring of embankments throughout the flood season in the summer and early fall.

Fresh flooding, landslides in India

In India, reports Zarir Hussain, torrential monsoon rains lashed eastern regions, triggering more flooding on Thursday and pushing up the death toll to at least 277 as disease worries mounted and relief workers went on a “war footing”.

While a drought-like situation has been developing in large swathes of agriculture-dependent India, threatening farm output and economic growth, the nation’s east has been hit by the worst rains in more than half a century, one weather official said.

“The flooding this year is one of the worst in living memory after the devastating floods following the great Indian earthquake in 1950,” said AK Mitra, additional chief engineer of Assam district’s water resources department.

As part of relief efforts, the air force dropped food packets to villagers, some perched on thatched rooftops, and relief vessels distributed food by boat to other flood victims who have fled to higher ground.

At least five more people drowned overnight in India’s northeast amid surging waters and fresh landslides, bringing the death toll since the annual monsoon began in mid-June to 114 in the state with about 11,5-million people displaced, officials said.

In eastern Bihar state, at least 163 lives have been lost as floods hit more than 20-million people in 18 out of 38 state districts, an official statement said. Other eastern states have been hit by flooding but Bihar and Assam are the worst affected.

The latest deaths have pushed the flood toll in India since the monsoon rains began mid-June to at least 277, according to a tally compiled from figures given out by officials.

Three children drowned in Assam while trying to flee the rising flood waters in a bamboo raft. Two others seeking to escape the flooding died in separate boat accidents in the state.

Parts of Assam’s main city, Guwahati, remained submerged after the mighty Brahmaputra river burst its banks although waters were receding, Guwahati district magistrate AK Absar Hazarika said.

About “9 000 villages have been hit by the floods in 26 of the 27 districts in the state,” Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said. “Relief and rescue operations are on a war footing. We need urgent help.”

The outbreak of waterborne diseases was reported in various parts of Assam and in eastern Bihar state where at least 15 farm workers drowned on Wednesday when their boat was sucked into a whirlpool, officials said.

“We’ve rushed medical teams with adequate stocks of medicines to vulnerable areas where there were cases of diseases like diarrhoea breaking out,” Assam health minister Bhumidhar Barman said.

While flood waters in Bihar were receding, diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases erupted in such districts as Muzaffarpur and Begusarai, a state disaster-management department official said. Health officials were rushing medical supplies to flood-hit areas in the state of 83-million.

“We’ve alerted doctors and have enough stocks of bleach powder, oral-rehydration packets and water-purification tablets to fight the epidemic”, Muzaffarpur district magistrate Amrit Lal Meenas said.

But the aid was taking time to reach hard-hit villagers reeling from the impact of the flooding.

“I’ve no drinking water to give my children. My cattle have died, I’ve lost all my crops,” said farmer Buddhu Mahto.—Sapa-AP, Sapa-AFP

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