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Thousands dead and millions homeless after floods in South Asia

08 September 2017


Swept away: a family from the Phulbari sub-district of northern Bangladesh next to their flood-damaged home

Swept away: a family from the Phulbari sub-district of northern Bangladesh next to their flood-damaged home

TORRENTIAL monsoon rains across huge swaths of South Asia have killed about 1300 people and forced more than 40 million from their homes.

Heavy rains have been falling for more than two months in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, leading to the worst monsoon flooding for two decades. Millions of people have had to move into relief camps after losing their homes and all their possessions (News, 25 August).

A deluge in Mumbai last week brought nearly a month’s average rainfall in a single day.

The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said on Saturday that it believed that about 16 million children were in need of life-saving support as a result of the floodwater.

In India, flooding in four states has affected more than 31 million residents, including nearly 12.5 million children. An estimated 805,000 homes and 15,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed. In Bangladesh, eight million people have been affected, including three million children; and, in Nepal, 1.7 million people have been affected. Areas of Pakistan, including Karachi, have also been flooded.

Although in some parts of the region floodwater is now beginning to recede, aid agencies are warning of the spread of waterborne diseases and long-term food insecurity, as crops have been washed away.

The head of humanitarian programmes at Christian Aid, Madara Hettiarachchi, said: “These are some of the worst floods we’ve seen in South Asia in decades, and the impact is likely only going to get worse. Farms and livestock have been washed away; so food security is going to be a huge problem in the coming days, and we will likely see the death toll rise.”

Agencies are struggling to get relief to those affected across such a large area.

The Roman Catholic charity CAFOD called for Christians to pray and donate money to help those affected. Its director, Chris Bain, said: “The devastation of 41 million people displaced by the flooding in South Asia risks becoming a hidden emergency as the world’s attention focuses elsewhere.

“The Church has been at the forefront of the emergency response, but there is still much more to be done. We urge our supporters to stand with us in prayer with these affected communities, and to donate to our appeal so we can continue to support those in the hardest-to-reach communities.”

Christian Aid has warned that both India and the United States will continue to suffer from urban coastal flooding. Its 2016 report on climate-threatened coastal cities, Act Now, Pay Later, estimates that, by 2070, the first seven cities most at risk from flooding will be in Asia, and that US cities are most at risk of financial losses from flooding.

The author of the report, Dr Alison Doig, said: “Research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that the most extreme rain events in most regions of the world will increase in intensity by three to 15 per cent, especially in places such as parts of the Asian monsoon region. Likewise, the Royal Meteorological Society states that a warming climate means more moisture can be held in the atmosphere, leading to heavier rainfall when it does occur.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier which will increase the chance of more mass floods. If we want to address the underlying causes, it’s vital we speed up the decarbonisation of the global economy and invest much more in clean, renewable energy. Otherwise we can expect to see more horrific images of flood victims in future.”


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