South Asian floods kill 500 so far

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Associated Press

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- At least 17 people were killed by lightning during monsoon storms in Bangladesh, and 49 were killed in flooding in India, as the death toll from South Asian floods passed 500, officials and news reports said Tuesday.

In India, 49 people were swept to their deaths by swirling flood waters in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar and in northeastern Assam, officials said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew over flooded parts of Assam, where 82 people have died since June, and announced a federal task force to find a permanent solution to the state's annual flood menace.

"We need to find a holistic solution to the annual calamity and come up with short, medium and long-term measures to tackle the problem," Singh said.

Since the monsoon season began in June, 294 have died in India, 80 in Nepal, 125 in Bangladesh and five in Pakistan. Millions more have lost their homes and taken shelter on river banks, national highways and government-run relief camps since June.

Tornadoes in northern Bangladesh on Monday injured 200 people in 23 villages already reeling under the impact of monsoon floods, the Sangbad daily newspaper reported.

The 17 lightning deaths occurred during torrential rains on Sunday and Monday, the Jugantar newspaper reported.

In the Indian state of Bihar, rescuers found 30 bodies in the past two days as flood waters began receding in some areas. The areas had been cut off from the rest of the state for 10 days, Gautam Goswami, a government disaster management official told The Associated Press.

Army helicopters have dropped tons of food packets to hundreds of thousands of people living on rooftops, highways and river embankments in more than 6,000 villages, Goswami said.

An official in Assam in India said 600 animals in three national parks have died in the flooding there.

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