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Flood Waters Inundate South Asia, Kill More Than 200 - 2002-07-25

Floods that have swept through South Asia in recent weeks are now being blamed for the deaths of more than 200 people. Heavy monsoon rains triggered the floods, which have also left more than three million people homeless.

The rains have been lashing the region for more than three weeks, triggering landslides and causing rivers to burst their banks.

In Bangladesh, floodwaters have inundated one-third of the country, submerging the homes of nearly two million people. In addition to heavy rains, water has been pouring down from overflowing rivers in hilly regions of eastern India.

In the past two weeks more than 50 people in Bangladesh have died in flood-related deaths. Officials say concerns are mounting that lack of clean drinking water could trigger the outbreak of water borne diseases.

There are also fears the flooding could lead to massive crop losses if the rains do not stop anytime soon.

The situation is also grim in mountainous Nepal, where the torrential downpour has caused landslides which buried hundreds of village homes. Officials say more than a 100 people have been killed there in recent days. The worst affected district is Makwanpur, where 50 people died in a landslide Wednesday night.

In neighboring Bhutan, landslides have blocked highways and disrupted traffic. Officials say efforts are underway to try to clear the debris.

In India, floods have ravaged the eastern states of Assam, Bihar and West Bengal. The swirling floodwaters have affected more than a 1,000 villages, and swept nearly a million people out of their homes. Officials said the floods have caused widespread damage, washing away roads, bridges and rail tracks. They said food supplies are running low because the transportation system has been disrupted.

In Assam, east of the capital Dispur, the floods have killed at least 20 people, the latest victims were 12 members of a family whose boat capsized. Tens of thousands of people are sheltered in relief camps.

While the floods have devastated parts of India, many parts of the country are suffering from a lack of rain. Some experts are expressing concern that the country's farm sector could suffer a major setback. Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh says many areas in the country are confronting the "worst drought-like situation in the past 10 years."

The monsoon season in South Asia lasts from June to September, bringing the region most of its annual rainfall.