Dozens dead, millions stranded as floods ravage Bangladesh and India

Monsoon storms in Bangladesh and India have killed at least 41 people and triggered devastating floods that have stranded millions more, officials said on Saturday.

Floods are a regular threat to millions of people in the lowlands of Bangladesh, but experts say climate change is increasing their frequency, ferocity and unpredictability.

Relentless downpours over the past week have inundated large swathes of northeast Bangladesh, with troops deployed to evacuate households cut off from nearby communities.

Schools have been turned into emergency shelters to house entire villages flooded within hours by rivers that suddenly overflowed.

“The whole village was flooded on Friday morning and we all got stuck,” Lokman, whose family lives in the village of Companiganj, told AFP news agency.

“After waiting all day on the roof of our house, a neighbor rescued us with a makeshift boat. My mum said she had never seen such flooding in her entire life,” the 23-year-old added.

Asma Akter, another woman rescued from the rising waters, said her family had been unable to eat for two days.

“The water came up so fast that we couldn’t bring any of our stuff,” she said. “And how can you cook anything when everything is under water?”

Lightning triggered by the storms has killed at least 21 people in the South Asian country since Friday afternoon, police officials told AFP.

Among them were three children aged 12 to 14 who were struck by lightning in the rural town of Nandail on Friday, local police chief Mizanur Rahman said.

Four other people died when landslides hit their hillside homes in the port city of Chittagong, police inspector Nurul Islam told AFP.

Reporting by Tanvir Chowdhury of Al Jazeera from Khulna in Bangladesh said the situation was dire in many districts.

“There have been torrential rains for the past few days, which has made things really bad. But there has been a respite from the rain now,” Chowdhury said.

“Army and Navy personnel are trying to rescue those trapped. Food and drinking water are desperately needed, especially in the remote village. Power has been restored to some of the affected areas. We also know that some hospitals have been flooded, which has complicated the situation,” he added.

At least 16 people have been killed since Thursday in India’s remote Meghalaya region, the state’s chief minister, Conrad Sangma, wrote on Twitter, after landslides and flooding rivers swamped roads .

Nearby, in the state of Assam, more than 1.8 million people have been affected by flooding after five days of relentless downpours.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters he had asked district officials to provide “all necessary aid and relief” to those caught in the floods.

People wade along a road in a flooded area following heavy monsoon rains in Sylhet [AFP]

“The situation is bad”

Floods in Bangladesh worsened on Saturday morning after a temporary reprieve from the rains of the previous afternoon, the chief administrator of the government of the Sylhet region, Mosharraf Hossain, told AFP.

“The situation is bad. More than four million people have been stranded by floodwaters,” Hossain said, adding that almost the entire region was without power.

Floods forced Bangladesh’s third-largest international airport at Sylhet to close on Friday.

Forecasters said the floods would worsen over the next two days with heavy rains in Bangladesh and upriver in northeast India.

Ahead of this week’s rains, the Sylhet region was still recovering from its worst flooding in nearly two decades late last month, when at least 10 people were killed and four million others were affected.

Both countries have asked the military to help deal with severe flooding, which could worsen as rains are expected to continue over the weekend.

“We are expecting moderate to heavy rain in several parts of Assam until Sunday. The amount of rainfall has been unprecedented,” said Sanjay O’Neil, a weather station official from Gauhati, the capital. of Assam.

In Bangladesh, the districts close to the Indian border were the most affected.

According to the flood forecasting and warning center in Dhaka, the national capital, the water level of all major rivers in the country was rising. The country has about 130 rivers.

The center said the flood situation is likely to deteriorate in the worst affected districts of Sunamganj and Sylhet in the North Eastern region as well as Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Rangpur districts in northern Bangladesh.

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