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Monsoon Floods Claim More Lives - 2004-08-09

Floods are wreaking havoc across South Asia, where more than 2,000 people have died as a result of rising waters brought by the annual monsoon. Among the threats is a swelling lake in Tibet near the Indian border that authorities say could flood several Indian villages.

Authorities say they have evacuated more than 1,000 people from several villages in India's state of Himachal Pradesh, which are threatened with submersion if a glacial lake in neighboring Tibet bursts its banks. When the lake last overflowed in 2000, it washed away bridges and roads, and more than a hundred people died.

Also in Himachal Pradesh, rescue workers saved 20 builders trapped for about 24 hours when the tunnel they were building was blocked by landslides.

South Asia sees floods annually, but John Tulloch, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent says this has been a bad year.

"It's approaching 70 million people affected over three countries, with death toll of 2,000," he said. "As far as area flooded, it would have to be the worst in a decade."

Rains are relenting in some areas and thousands are returning home from relief centers.

Roughly 700 of the deaths caused by the floods were in Bangladesh. Mr. Tulloch says even in places where waters are receding, 34 million people remain at risk.

"Bangladesh is like a sponge that's saturated - so any more heavy rain, the water is going to have nowhere to go, and it will flood," he said. They remain vulnerable to the situation."

The threat of water borne diseases remains high in Bangladesh and other nations, and economists worry that millions will lose their jobs and face hunger because crops in many areas have been washed away.