Floods in India, Bangladesh have left millions homeless, killing 18

NDRF personnel are rescuing residents of Guwahati, a city in the Indian state of Assam.

Xinhua Agency Getty Images

Army troops have been called to rescue thousands of people blocked by massive floods that have devastated Northeast India and Bangladesh, leaving millions of homes under water and cutting off transport links, authorities said on Saturday.

In the Indian state of Assam, at least nine people have died in floods and 2 million have seen their homes sunk, according to the state disaster management agency. Lightning strikes in parts of neighboring Bangladesh have killed at least nine people since Friday.

Both sides have asked their troops for help, as more floods are expected, which are expected to continue over the weekend.

In Sylhet in northeastern Bangladesh, on the banks of the Surma River, children sat at the window of a flooded house while other family members gathered on a bed in their flooded home, some wondering how to survive the ordeal.

“How can we eat (in this state)?” said Anjuman Ara Begum, standing in the water in his kitchen. “We live with muri (puffed rice) and chira (flattened rice) and other things given by people. What else can we do? We can’t cook. “

Flights to Osmani International Airport in Sylhet were suspended for three days as the floods almost reached the runway, according to Hafiz Ahmed, the airport’s manager. The Sylhet Sunamganj highway was also flooded, but motorcycles were moving.

Water levels in all major rivers in the country are rising, according to the Dhaka flood forecasting and warning center. The country has about 130 rivers.

The center said the floods were likely to worsen in the worst-hit areas of Sunamganj and Sylhet in the northeast, as well as in the Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Rangpur areas of northern Bangladesh.

The Brahmaputra, one of the largest rivers in Asia, broke through its mudslides, flooding 3,000 villages and arable land in 28 of Assam’s 33 districts beyond the Indian border.

“We expect moderate to heavy rainfall in several parts of Assam by Sunday. The amount of rainfall is unprecedented,” said Sanjay O’Neill, an employee of the weather station in Gauhati, Assam’s capital.

Several train services have been canceled in India amid incessant torrents over the past five days. In the town of Haflong in southern Assam, the railway station was under water and flooded rivers deposited mud and silt on the railway tracks.

The Indian Army has been mobilized to assist disaster response agencies in rescuing stranded people and providing food and other necessities. Soldiers used motorboats and inflatable rafts to navigate submerged areas.

Last month, a sudden flood before the monsoon, caused by an influx of water from the upper reaches in the northeastern states of India, hit the northern and northeastern regions of Bangladesh, destroying crops and damaging homes and roads. The country was just beginning to recover when fresh rains flooded the same areas again this week.

Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, is low-lying and facing threats from natural disasters such as floods and cyclones exacerbated by climate change. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, about 17% of people in Bangladesh will have to be relocated in the next decade or so if global warming continues at the current pace.

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