Six more people have died in floods and mudslides in northeastern India's Assam state, officials said on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 77 from more than two weeks of heavy rains that caused one of Asia’s largest rivers to overflow.
The Brahmaputra River continued to wreak havoc, displacing more than 2 million people, the officials said. Vast tracts were still underwater with 26 of the state’s 33 districts badly affected.
M.S. Mannivanan, head of the State Disaster Management Authority, said rescue and relief operations were underway.
“We have 40 teams of the State Disaster Response Force in the worst-hit areas and the army also is on standby,” Mannivanan said.
The Brahmaputra River, which flows through Tibet, India and Bangladesh, burst its banks in Assam late last month, inundating large swathes of the state and triggering mudslides.
In neighboring Bangladesh, over a million people are marooned or have left their homes for higher ground along with their cattle and other belongings.
“The situation is grim, although the Brahmaputra's waters have receded slightly today with the intensity of rains coming down a bit,” Manninanan said.
Thousands of people were taking shelter on Tuesday on a raised river embankment after being displaced from their submerged homes in central Assam’s Morigaon district.
“Our villages and all nearby villages have been under chest-deep water for about a week now,” said Nilima Khatun, who was clutching her 2-year-old child. “We are passing days in misery with no relief coming our way from the government.”
The floods also inundated most of Kaziranga National Park, home to rare one-horned rhinos, authorities said.
In the Pabitora wildlife sanctuary, 35 kilometers east of the state capital, Gauhati, an entire one-horned rhino population of over a hundred were taking shelter in artificially built highlands.
“The entire park is submerged with the rhinos moving to the highlands for shelter," park ranger Mukul Tamuly said by phone.
Annual monsoon rains hit the region in June-September. The rains are crucial for rain-fed crops planted during the season but often cause extensive damage.
Four million affected in South Asia
Almost four million people have been hit by monsoon floods in South Asia, officials said, with a third of Bangladesh already underwater from some of the heaviest rains in a decade.
The monsoon -- which usually falls from June to September -- is crucial to the economy of the Indian sub-continent, but also causes widespread death and destruction across the region each year.
“This is going to be the worst flood in a decade,” Bangladesh’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre chief Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan told AFP.
The heavy rains have swollen two main Himalayan river systems -- the Brahmaputra and the Ganges -- that flow through India and Bangladesh.
Bhuiyan said about a third of flood-prone Bangladesh -- a delta-nation crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers -- was underwater, and at least 1.5 million people were affected, with village homes and roads flooded.
In north-central Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra river was almost 40 centimeters higher than normal and threatening to burst its banks, district administrator Farook Ahmed told AFP.
Most villagers were trying to stay near their flood-damaged homes, but some 15,000 had fled severely affected areas, officials said.
With a 10-day forecast pointing to rising waters, Bhuiyan said if more rivers burst their banks some 40 percent of the nation could be flooded “in a worst-case scenario.”
In Assam, northeast India, more than 2.1 million people have been affected since mid-May.
In Nepal, at least 50 people have died in landslides and floods triggered by the monsoon rains, with homes swept away and roads and bridges damaged.
“We are distributing food and relief goods from helicopters to about 300 displaced families after the roads were blocked by floods and landslides,” district official Gyan Nath Dahal told AFP.