54 Dead, Million Flee Homes as Rains Lash Northeast India, Bangladesh
2004 07 15
At least 54 people have died and more than a million have fled their homes as torrential rains lashed parts of India and Bangladesh, officials said.
Eleven people were killed in landslides in Guwahati, the biggest city in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, taking the death toll from rains for the past three days to 18, officials said.
Late Friday evening, 11 more persons were reported dead as the boat in which they were travelling to safer areas capsized in west Assam's Goalpara district, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Guwahati.
Officials said nearly 80,000 people had been displaced in the state.
In Guwahati, people used bamboo rafts and inflatable tires to flee to safety. Some areas were inundated by two meters (yards) of water, which submerged cars and flooded houses.
"Guwahati has become a dead city with no power supply, no drinking water and even scarcity of food. The entire system is collapsing," said Atanu Bhuyam, editor of the local Asomiya Khabar newspaper.
Emergency workers in army speedboats rescued people marooned on balconies and rooftops and ferried them to makeshift shelters. Other people waded chest-deep in water to reach their destinations.
"I must go to the hospital as there's a woman in labour. There's no way I can get there unless I wade through the water," said gynecologist Panchanan Das, clad in shorts and bare-foot, with his stethoscope slung around his neck.
Weather forecasters said the deluge, the worst in a decade to soak Guwahati, was caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal and would last two more days.
The national television station suspended broadcasts from Guwahati after rainwater flooded its complex.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, the rains had claimed 14 lives since Thursday, officials said.
West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta told reporters in Calcutta the dead included a 20-year-old pregnant woman buried under rubble when her home collapsed in in the northern district of Murshidabad bordering Bangladesh.
A tornado razed hundreds of shanty dwellings overnight.
"Heavy rains and a tornado have destroyed and flooded houses, and forced over a million people to leave their homes across the state," he said in the teeming state capital where roads, markets and parks were waterlogged.
In Bangladesh, at least 11 were killed and hundreds more injured by a series of tornadoes that ripped through towns and villages Thursday, officials said.
Eight of the dead were killed in central Bangladesh when a tornado struck a field where a large number of Muslims had gathered to pray.
India has offered one billion rupees (21 million dollars) in aid to Bangladesh to tackle the havoc caused by the recent tornados and floods.
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