Friday, August 29, 2008

2,000 feared dead in India flood

Guardian (UK): Two thousand people are now feared dead in the floods caused after a river changed course, submerging hundreds of villages in northern India and sparking claims that the Indian government is playing down the scale of the tragedy. Although the official death toll in India's Bihar state is just 65, aid agencies claim thousands are missing in the flooded area. The Kosi river breached its banks 11 days ago on the border with Nepal, flowing through a channel 75 miles (120km) east of its natural route.

ActionAid's emergencies adviser for Asia, Dr PV Unnikrishnan, said that by omitting those feared dead the authorities could 'underplay' the need for massive relief operations in the area. "By not counting those gone missing, the government estimates not only result in inadequate compensation and rehabilitation processes, but also underplay the need for rescue and relief," said Unnikrishnan.

India's Disaster Management Division said more than 2.6 million people in 16 districts have been affected by the flooding. A spokesperson for Britain's Department For International Development in Delhi said, although the Indian monsoon saw heavy rains every year, this summer it devastated an area that had historically never been under water. "Last year 20 million people were affected. This year it's far less but they are in a region that does not have the capacity to deal with floodwaters like this," said the spokesperson....

A 1935 photo of a flood in Bihar, from Service Civil International, Wikimedia Commons

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