Monsoon rains wreak havoc in South Asia; death toll hits 180

A family bringing their belongings to a makeshift camp in the Morigaon district of Assam, India, on Monday. The monsoon rains have wreaked havoc again this year across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, with people, dwellings
A family bringing their belongings to a makeshift camp in the Morigaon district of Assam, India, on Monday. The monsoon rains have wreaked havoc again this year across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, with people, dwellings and boats in remote low-lying areas washed away.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Millions displaced as floods afflict four countries; building in Mumbai collapses

MUMBAI • Torrential monsoon rains have swept away homes and triggered landslides across South Asia, affecting millions of people and claiming at least 180 lives, officials said yesterday.

Four people were killed and at least 12 others are feared trapped under rubble after a building collapsed as heavy monsoon rains lashed India's financial capital Mumbai yesterday, officials said.

This was the second such tragedy in two weeks. Earlier this month, a wall collapsed in the city, killing 29 people.

"Over 12 people are still stuck under the rubble," disaster management spokesman Tanaji Kamble said of the building collapse in southern Mumbai's congested Dongri area.

"Eight injured have been taken to hospitals and rescue operations are ongoing."

Two teams from India's National Disaster Response Force as well as local volunteers, the fire department and police officials were scouring the rubble for survivors.

Volunteers could be seen recovering household items, including furniture, from the debris.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences to the victims' families, describing the incident as "anguishing".

The rains - which stretch from June to September - have wreaked havoc again this year across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, with people, dwellings and boats in remote low-lying areas washed away.

At least five children drowned in Bangladesh on Monday, taking the toll in the country to 34, including 18 hit by lightning and seven who drowned after their boat capsized in choppy waters in the Bay of Bengal.

Hundreds of thousands have been marooned by flood waters in the country's north, with one of the major Himalayan rivers, the Brahmaputra, over a metre above the "danger level", officials said.

In Nepal, at least 78 people have died and 16,000 families have been displaced, although flood waters have started receding. Images showed rescuers using inflatable dinghies to evacuate families trapped in flooded houses.

Health experts have warned of possible outbreaks of waterborne diseases and called for international help.

Nearly 50 people have been killed in India, with two eastern states - Assam and Bihar, which borders Nepal - bearing the brunt of the deluge.

The authorities in Assam declared a red alert on Monday as the flood situation turned critical, with villages cut off by surging waters and a major highway submerged.

Photographs showed residents crammed in boats carrying their belongings to safer areas in Morigaon - one of the worst-affected districts - and just the roofs of submerged homes above water.

So far, 11 people have died in the state and some 83,000 people have been displaced by flooding.

The authorities also scrambled to reach animals marooned by the deluge at the state's World Heritage-listed Kaziranga National Park, which is home to two-thirds of the world's one-horned rhinoceros.

In Bihar, 25 deaths were reported, with 2.5 million residents affected.

Among the dead were three children who drowned as they went to check the rising water level in a canal. Two others died while playing near a ditch filled with flood waters, the Press Trust of India reported.

Further north-west, in the Pakistan-administered part of the Kashmir region, flash floods killed 23 people and damaged 120 houses, with water and power supplies crippled.

The United Nations said on Monday that it "stands ready to work with the authorities in the affected countries as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from this ongoing monsoon season".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2019, with the headline 'Monsoon rains wreak havoc in South Asia; death toll hits 180'. Print Edition | Subscribe