Monday, August 03, 2015

Hundreds dead, millions displaced as monsoon rains heap misery across Asia

Monsoon rains have claimed the lives of hundreds across Asia, authorities said Monday, as rescue workers scrambled to reach remote areas of India, Pakistan and Myanmar in the wake of flash floods and landslides.

Authorities in India say more than 120 people have died across the country in recent days, while more than a million have been displaced by rains worsened by a cyclone that barreled through the Bay of Bengal last week.

On Monday, rescuers resumed their search for villagers after downpours caused a landslide in remote northeastern Manipur, where an official said four bodies have been recovered from a hamlet buried by a collapsed hill.

In neighboring Myanmar, the belt of heavy seasonal rains - augmented by Cyclone Komen - have killed at least 46 people and affected more than 200,000 with much of the country under rooftop-high floods. The government there has focused relief and rescue efforts on four "national disaster-affected regions" in central and western Myanmar, where villagers have been forced to use canoes and makeshift rafts to escape.

Thousands of others are already in camps for the displaced including in Kalay, Sagaing Region, where residents told of unusually powerful flood waters swamping homes in hours.

"We've lost all that we have. Our house is still under water," Htay Shein, 62, said from a temporary shelter in ­Kalay. "We have seen floods, but never anything like this before. This year is the worst." A photographer in the area said floodwaters remained stubbornly high on Monday, with many people ­making their way to safety in rafts cobbled ­together from old tires, salvaged wood and large plastic bottles.

The UN warned swollen rivers threaten more areas of the country, adding it could be days before the true extent of the disaster emerges.

"Logistics are extremely difficult. Assessment teams are having a hard time reaching affected areas," said Pierre Peron, Myanmar spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Rains have also battered the state of Rakhine which already hosts about 140,000 displaced Rohingya Muslims. 


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