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Monsoon season claims dozens of lives across South Asia

Caritas extends help in worst-hit areas as tens of thousands forced to flee

ucanews.com reporters

ucanews.com reporters

Published: July 31, 2015 10:29 AM GMT

Updated: July 31, 2015 07:07 PM GMT

Monsoon season claims dozens of lives across South Asia

Apartments are destroyed following a landslide due to heavy rain in Harkhar, Chin State in Myanmar on July 30. (Photo by Bik Lian/AFP)

Heavy monsoon rains have wreaked havoc over wide parts of South Asia this month, leaving dozens dead, destroying homes and forcing thousands of people to evacuate.

In Pakistan, the country's disaster management agency reported that 86 people were killed in July due to rain-triggered flash floods.

The floods this month have affected at least 500,000 people, mainly in Punjab and Sindh provinces as well as Gilgit Baltistan. This includes at least 170,000 people who have been forced to evacuate, according to Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority.

The Chitral valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is among the most affected by floods and heavy rain, with 32 deaths.

"Floods have swept away all we had, our house, belongings, and cattle,” Muhammad Azam, 55, told ucanews.com. "More than 150 houses have been completely wiped out in our village.”

He said even survivors suffering from health problems have been left stranded since mid-July, because links to the main roads have been submerged with floodwater.

Shahab Khan, 17, told ucanews.com that floods swept his high school away.

“More than 100 students study in our school,” he said. “They are faced with an uncertain situation.”

Caritas Pakistan, the social wing of the Catholic Church, is assessing the situation in flood-affected areas of Islamabad-Rawalpindi and Multan dioceses, which like most of Pakistan, cover majority Muslim populations.

“Many families are still without a shelter,” said Amjad Gulzar, Caritas Pakistan's executive director.

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“We are anticipating a country-wide disaster almost on the scale of the 2010 floods, which submerged one-fifth of the country. Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, head of the Catholic Church, has also contacted us and expressed his concern for those affected.”

'People had to run for their lives'

In Bangladesh, Cyclone Komen fizzled past July 30, setting off heavy rains and floods and killing at least three people.

About 60,000 people have been evacuated in Cox's Bazar district in southeastern Bangladesh, according to Iftekharul Islam, head of relief operations for the government's Disaster Management department.

Earlier this week, the cyclone triggered landslides in three districts of southeast Bangladesh, leaving seven people dead and thousands stranded. Thousands of coastal villagers were evacuated in anticipation of a tidal surge, officials said.

The effects of the approaching cyclone were also felt in neighboring Myanmar, where major flooding killed at least 27 people and inundated the homes and fields of tens of thousands more.

Rising waters, flash floods and landslides have destroyed roads, railways, bridges and houses, according to a July 31 report in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.

Authorities have asked people to move to safer places in the worst-hit areas of Kalay, in northern Sagaing region, and Sittwe, the capital of western Rakhine state.

Rakhine already hosts some 140,000 displaced people, mainly Rohingya Muslims, living in exposed make-shift coastal camps, following communal violence three years ago.

A resident from Bumay village on the outskirts of Sittwe said newly built houses at several nearby displacement camps were flooded after storms July 30.

"People had to run for their lives,” said the resident, who withheld his name.

In parts of India, authorities also reported major damage from monsoon storms. Authorities in Gujarat state, western India, said flash floods killed at least 26 people this week.

The rain and high winds have also cut power and communications across the state’s north, raising concerns that villagers may be stranded. "Over 2,000 villages of north Gujarat have been affected due to the floods," the duty officer in the state's emergency control room told AFP. "We have lost contact with most of these villages and there is no information coming in from those areas."

In Nepal, still recovering from the massive earthquake that devastated the Himalayan nation in April, landslides caused by heavy rains killed at least 29 people July 30, according to local officials.

The monsoon season is vital for South Asia, especially for crop production. India, for example, receives nearly 80 percent of its annual rainfall from June to September.

This story was reported by ucanews.com journalists in Islamabad, Lahore and Dhaka, with additional reporting from Agence France-Presse.

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