Accessibility links

Floods Devastate Northern India, Kill More than 100 - 2003-07-16

More than 100 people are feared killed in a flash flood caused by torrential rainfall in Northern India. It was the latest disaster triggered by the monsoon season in South Asia, where annual rains have caused severe flooding in several regions and killed nearly 300 people.

The unusually heavy downpour lashed a remote village near Kullu in northern Himachal Pradesh state, triggering a flash flood in a nearby river.

Officials said the surging waters washed away dozens of homes and snapped communication links. Most of the victims were migrant laborers working on the construction of a hydroelectric power project.

State authorities have launched a rescue operation to locate dozens of people who are missing, and help those who are injured.

Hilly Himachal Pradesh state is the latest region to succumb to the fury of this year's monsoons. In recent weeks, rivers across Bangladesh and India's northeastern state of Assam have burst their banks, washed away mud huts, and left tens of thousands without shelter. In Nepal and India's West Bengal state, landslides have killed dozens of people.

The head of the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in New Delhi, Bob McKerrow, said an estimated four million people have been affected by the floods in South Asia. He says these people are among the poorest in the region.

"Those people that live in marginal areas, such as riverbanks, lowland deltas, steep mountainsides, and river deltas and islands - they get badly affected, so the most vulnerable become more vulnerable in flooding time," he said.

Assam's chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, has declared a state of emergency, and sought assistance from India's federal government in coping with the floods, which he says are among the worst in the last fifty years. Hundreds of villages along the Brahmaputra River in the state are swamped by swirling waters.

In low-lying Bangladesh, officials say more than 150 people have died in the flooding. Tens of thousands of people are camping on mud embankments or the roofs of their submerged homes as vast swathes of land are under water.

Relief workers say rescuing people from their flooded homes is the first priority. They say the flood victims are also battling hunger and disease, and efforts have begun to provide clothing, temporary shelter and medicines.

Floods have become an annual occurrence during the monsoon season in South Asia. Environmentalists blame widespread deforestation in the upper Himalayan Mountains for the devastation.