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Bangladesh, India Floods Leave More than 50 Dead - 2002-07-13

In South Asia, monsoon rains have caused severe flooding in some areas. In Bangladesh, large stretches of the country are under water, forcing nearly half-a-million people to flee their homes. Officials said more than 50 deaths are linked to the flooding. Floods have also displaced tens-of-thousands of villagers in India's northeastern state of Assam.

The flooding in low-lying Bangladesh began two weeks ago. In addition to the heavy rains, water poured down from overflowing rivers in the hilly regions of neighboring India.

Officials said more than 200 villages were swamped by floodwaters Saturday, in Sirajganj district, about 100 kilometers northwest of the capital Dhaka, when the swollen Jamuna River broke through its embankments.

Hundreds of villagers have left their mud huts to take shelter in schools and other buildings on higher ground, or along broken brick embankments built to prevent rivers from flooding.

Officials said the floods have been linked to more than 50 deaths, so far. More than 30 people have died of diarrhea and another 20 are reported to have drowned in the flood waters.

The floods have also caused widespread damage to homes, roads, crops and livestock. A government administrator says the biggest challenge is controlling the spread of waterborne diseases, through well-water that has been polluted by floodwaters.

In India, the northeastern state of Assam is the worst affected by floods. In recent days, water levels have dropped in several areas, but tens-of-thousands of people have already been evacuated from their homes, and are sheltered in government relief camps. Officials are handing out emergency food supplies to those displaced by the floods. Rail and road links have been disrupted due to mudslides in several places in the remote region.

Forecasters warn the flooding could persist in both nations, until the monsoon season ends in mid-September.

Bangladesh and India share common rivers, which originate in the Himalayan mountains. Rising river levels due to the monsoon rains often trigger floods in both nations. Experts said the silting of river beds due to deforestation, is probably one of the reasons for the heavier floods that have occurred in recent years.