Worst floods in years 'submerge' Bangladesh villages

More than four million at risk of food insecurity and disease as flooding forces nearly 200,000 to flee their homes.

    Worst floods in years 'submerge' Bangladesh villages
    At least 30 people have been killed in Bangladesh since the floods began last week [Ahmed Salahuddin/Getty Images]

    Rain-swollen rivers in Bangladesh have broken through several embankments, submerging dozens of villages, destroying tens of thousands of homes and displacing nearly 200,000 people, officials and an aid group said. 

    More than 4 million people are at risk of food insecurity and disease because of the flooding in Bangladesh, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a statement on Friday. 

    The low-lying country is the latest left reeling by the annual monsoon rains, which have wreaked havoc across South Asia from Nepal in the Himalayas to Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean.

    In the past week alone, flooding and landslides triggered by the rains have killed scores across the region.

    The death toll stood at 30 in Bangladesh, according to official figures on Thursday.

    Ariful Islam, an executive engineer at the Bangladesh Water Development Board, described the severity of ongoing floods as "worse compared to recent years", while an official at the federal agriculture ministry said the situation deteriorated after three embankments on the Brahmaputra river, which flows down from the Himalayas through northeastern India and into Bangladesh, gave way late on Thursday.

    "The onrush of water submerged a vast area along with several dozen villages," Mohammad Moniruzzaman told Reuters news agency.

    Raihana Islam, an official in the flood-afflicted district of Bogra, said the government has opened more than 1,000 temporary shelters. 

    "But due to deep waters and lack of communications, many people aren't able to reach them," she told Reuters. 

    'In the path of dangerous floods'

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    Islam said scores of people had instead camped on embankments, railway lines and highways, where traffic has come to a standstill.

    The IFRC said the floodwaters and mudslides have left hundreds of thousands of people stranded without water and electricity. More than 66,000 homes were destroyed, it said. 

    "Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed, which puts people further in the direct path of dangerous floods. We are seriously concerned about access to the affected populations," said Feroz Salah Uddin, the secretary-general of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. 

    Meanwhile, Azmat Ulla, head of the IFRC's branch in Bangladesh, said even if rains recede, "overflowing rivers upstream will worsen the flooding in the coming days". 

    In the neighbouring Indian state of Assam, floods on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries since last week have affected around five million people but the situation has improved as the waters recede, officials said.

    At least nine were killed and more than 225,000 people took shelter in relief camps, according to government figures on Thursday. 

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    "While some people have started going back to their homes, about 70 percent continue to remain in makeshift relief camps," Assam Water Resources Minister Keshab Mahanta said.

    Water levels were also coming down in the northern Indian state of Bihar, where floods have killed at least 78 people.

    "We left our homes to save ourselves,"  a woman affected by the floods in India said. 

    "We left everything behind, we just managed to take some essentials and our goats," she added. 

    In Nepal, the death toll has risen to 78, while 46 were killed in Pakistan. 

    Two people died in Sri Lanka and five were missing as heavy rain forced hundreds to flee their homes across the island nation, the state-run Disaster Management Centre said.

    Bangladesh

    Bangladeshi flood victim processing jute in Bogura district, northern Bangladesh [Ahmed Salahuddin/Getty Images]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies