More than 1,000 have died in South Asia floods

Indian residents wade through flood waters in Malda in the Indian state of West Bengal.
Indian residents wade through flood waters in Malda in the Indian state of West Bengal.PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI, INDIA (NYTIMES) - More than 1,000 people have died in floods across South Asia this summer, and as sheets of incessant rain pummeled the vast region on Tuesday (Aug 29), worries grew that the death toll would rise along with the floodwaters.

According to the United Nations, at least 41 million people in Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been directly affected by flooding and landslides resulting from the monsoon rains, which usually begin in June and last until September.

And while flooding in the Houston area has grabbed more attention, aid officials say a catastrophe is unfolding in South Asia.

In Nepal, thousands of homes have been destroyed and dozens of people swept away. Elephants were pressed into service, wading through swirling waters to rescue people, and aid workers have built rafts from bamboo and banana leaves.

But many people are still missing, and some families have held last rites without their loved ones' bodies being found.

"This is the severest flooding in a number of years," Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said by phone from Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.

India has also suffered immensely. Floods have swept across the states of Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and other areas.

 
 
 
 

This weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over the devastation in Bihar, where more than 400 people are believed to have died in floods in recent weeks. He pledged millions of dollars in assistance and urged insurance companies to send in assessors as soon as possible to help farmers cope with their loses.

And the rain keeps coming.

On Tuesday, Mumbai, the sprawling financial capital, was soaked to the bone. Nearly all day, the rain drummed down. As people scurried up the sidewalks, the wind tore umbrellas out of their hands.

The monsoons have battered Bangladesh as well. A low-lying and densely populated country of 165 million, Bangladesh is chronically ravaged by flooding. This year's monsoons have left roughly a third of its terrain submerged.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent said on its website that more than 8 million Bangladeshis had been affected by the flooding, the worst in 40 years. At least 140 people have died and nearly 700,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.