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Floods Leave Millions Homeless in South Asia - 2004-07-12

In South Asia, raging floods have claimed at least one hundred lives and displaced more than three million people. Officials and relief workers are struggling to get help to those deluged.

Heavy monsoon rains that lashed eastern India in the past week triggered massive flooding as rivers burst banks and swamped hundreds of villages.

Officials say as many as three million people have been forced out of their homes in the worst struck states of Assam and Bihar.

Bob McKerrow, head of the Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies in New Delhi, says that while the situation is in control now, it is likely to worsen as the monsoon season progresses.

"You will have people sheltering in schools, temples, mosques, churches, government warehouses, and there are distributions taking place by the Red Cross and the government in the next month or six weeks, things are likely to get much worse," said Mr. McKerrow.

Thousands of mud homes have been swept away. Soldiers are using boats and helicopters to rescue marooned people and to ferry supplies to villages. Relief workers and volunteers are bringing food and medicine to the victims, and camps have been set up for those made homeless.

The floodwaters have also snapped power lines and covered rail tracks in eastern India, stalling communication links with the rest of the country.

In low-lying Bangladesh, rivers swollen with monsoon waters have submerged vast tracts of land in the north of the country. Officials say more than one and a half million people have been cut off by the flooding. Many are living in partly submerged homes, others are using boats to reach emergency shelters in schools and other buildings.

Weather forecasters are warning people to brace for more flooding as rains continue to lash the region.

In Bangladesh, more than 30 people, including several children, have been killed in flood-related accidents in recent days.

In Nepal, the weather has been blamed for nearly 50 deaths in floods and landslides. In the south, hundreds of villages have been flooded, displacing thousands of people from their homes and farms.

Floods have become an annual occurrence in India and neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal during the rainy season, which usually begins in June and lasts through September.