KATHMANDU: Floods and landslides caused by torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 50 people across Nepal while dozens more are missing, officials said yesterday. Northeast India has also been hit by floods with 11 deaths recorded as rivers burst their banks. Heavy rains since Thursday have hit several districts in Nepal, especially in the country’s eastern region and the southern plains, affecting thousands.
Nepal police spokesman Bishwaraj Pokharel said 33 people are missing while over 1,100 people have been rescued. “We have mobilized all resources in the country for search, rescue and relief and have been able to reach all affected areas,” Pokharel said. Authorities said river levels are expected to return to normal from Monday. Monsoon rains from June to September cause widespread death and destruction across South Asia each year.
In India at least 11 people have died in the country’s northeast, officials said, with some 20,000 being housed in relief camps in badly-hit Assam state. In Bangladesh aid groups were providing rations to Rohingya refugees in the southeast of the country with the UN World Food Program saying Friday that two people including a child had died. Last year, more than 1,200 people were been killed across South Asia in monsoon storms, with India’s Kerala suffering its worst floods in nearly 100 years.
Monsoon Rohingya camps
In another development, at least 10 people have died and thousands of shanty homes have been destroyed since April by monsoon rains in overcrowded Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh’s southeast, officials said yesterday. Bangladesh’s meteorological department said the Cox’s Bazar district – home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar – has seen at least 58.5 centimeters (nearly two feet) of rain since July 2.
An International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokeswoman said heavy rains triggered mudslides in the refugee camps – which are mostly built on hill-slopes – destroying some 4,889 tarpaulin and bamboo shacks. More than 200 landslides have been reported since April in the camps, built near the border with Myanmar, and at least 10 people were killed, a UN report said. In the last week alone, two Rohingya minors died and another 6,000 people were left without shelter because of heavy rains. Displaced refugees said they were suffering as rain disrupted logistics and daily activity in the camps.
“It’s tough to go to food distribution centers by wading through a swamp of mud,” Nurun Jan, a Rohingya refugee said. “Rains and gusty wind have made our life miserable.” World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Gemma Snowdon said they had to significantly increase assistance in the camps to cope up with the monsoon. “So far 11,400 people have required the extra food assistance due to the heavy rains, compared to 7,000 during the whole of July 2018,” she said.
Last year the UN refugee agency moved 30,000 Rohingya out of areas considered at high risk of landslides and floods. Heavy rains frequently trigger flooding and landslides in Bangladesh’s southeastern hill districts, and in 2017 at least 170 people were killed. Some 740,000 Rohingya fled a military crackdown in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017, joining about 200,000 already living in camps in Bangladesh.
Officials said landslides were increasing in the region because forests had been cleared to make way for the sprawling Rohingya camps. One of the settlements, Kutupalong, is now the world’s largest refugee centre. Bangladesh wants to relocate up to 100,000 of the refugees to Bhashan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, but this is opposed by the refugees and international rights groups. Dhaka says any relocation to the island would be voluntary.- Agencies