South Asia Flood Victims Hit by Disease

Aid workers scrambled to get food, water and medicine to the millions marooned in flood-hit South Asia following an outbreak of diarrhea and other waterborne diseases in northern India, officials said Tuesday.

South Asia Flood Victims Hit by Disease
At least 376 people have died as a result of recent monsoons and floods in India and Bangladesh, including at least nine people who drowned when their boat sank Monday in northern India's Bihar state. Another 29 are missing, said N. Swaran Kumar, the district magistrate.

The threat of waterborne disease is high because wells have been contaminated by floodwaters, said L.B. Prasad, director-general of health in Uttar Pradesh state.

More than 1,000 people are reported sick, mainly from cholera and gastroenteritis in the Maharajganj, Gorakhpur and Bara Banki districts of India's northern Uttar Pradesh state, officials said.

As the floodwaters receded, special medical camps were distributing chlorine tablets for purifying drinking water.

"Health officials have also been asked to disinfect the wells," Prasad said.

The Indian air force stepped up relief efforts, dropping supplies for 2 million people cut off by some of the worst flooding in eastern Bihar state in 30 years.

Hungry flood victims fought each other for scarce food supplies as helicopters dropped more than 4,300 food packets Monday in Bihar, India's worst-hit state, said Manoj Shrivastav, the state disaster management secretary.

Authorities have been criticized for being too slow to respond to the crisis with too little aid.

At the weekend, a teenager fell from the roof of his home and was drowned in floodwaters after trying to grab an aid packet dropped by a helicopter, officials said.

Hundreds of angry villagers in the Darbhanga district of Bihar briefly kidnapped a senior official and the local police chief, only releasing them after receiving promises that an aid distribution center would be set up there, said Upendera Sharma, a local government official.

Others complained that little was being done to help them as they tried to return to their ruined homes.

"I need money to rebuild my home," said Kedar Nisar, who makes a meager salary ferrying people across a river in his row boat.

Nisar said he and his family had received only 22 pounds of rice from the Uttar Pradesh state government in the past week.

Shrivastav said the monsoon rains were the heaviest to hit India's eastern Bihar state in 30 years with 34 1/2 inches of rain in 15 days, surpassing the previous record of more than 23 inches.

Since the start of the monsoon in June, the government says more than 1,200 people have died in India alone, with scores of others killed in Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal, where floods have hit low-lying southern parts of the country.

So far this year, some 14 million people in India and 5 million in Bangladesh have been displaced by flooding, according to government figures.

Officials have blamed the flooding on an unusual monsoon pattern.

Eight more people died in the latest flooding, bringing Bangladesh's toll to 164 Tuesday, the Information Ministry said.

The Flood Forecasting and Warning Center said flooding had eased in northern and eastern areas, but swollen rivers flowing south to the Bay of Bengal threatened to flood new areas in central Bangladesh, including the region around the capital, Dhaka.

Floods have hit more than 9 million people in 39 of Bangladesh's 64 districts, submerging vast areas of cropland and damaging thousands of miles of roads and mud embankments in the populous, impoverished delta nation of more than 150 million people.

Last Mod: 07 Ağustos 2007, 16:00
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