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Heavy monsoon floods displace 19 million people, kill 186 in India and Bangladesh
Bangladesh South As 5726546
A woman wades through a flooded street to collect food in Sirajgonj, about 104 kilometers (65 miles) north of Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, Friday, Aug. 3, 2007. Heavy monsoon rains and floods have killed at least 178 people and displaced another 19 million across Bangladesh and much of northern India, officials said Friday. - photo by Associated Press
    GAUHATI, India — Hungry, frightened and shouting for help, families perched perilously in treetops or on the roofs of their flooded homes in Uttar Pradesh as the death toll rose Friday from a month of torrential rains.
    At least 186 people have been killed and 19 million driven from their homes as heavy monsoon rains triggered floods, destroyed crops and submerged roads across a wide swath of northern India and Bangladesh.
    One woman in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh who identified herself to television reporters only as Savitra said food was running low.
    ‘‘We have not eaten anything for last two days,’’ she told local Enadu TV. ‘‘Whatever we had at our home was washed away.’’
    At many places in the state, river levels rose so fast that villagers couldn’t flee.
    ‘‘The gush of water was so sudden we did not get the time to react,’’ Vinod Kumar, a resident of a flooded village in Basti district, told Enadu TV. ‘‘All of our things have been washed away. We do not have food, kerosene or even a match box.
    ‘‘The officials are saying relief is coming, but nothing has come so far.’’
    In Uttar Pradesh alone, soldiers were evacuating 500 villages Friday, said the state’s relief commissioner, Umesh Sinha.
    ‘‘At least 12 people, mostly children and women, died of rain-related incidents in the last 24 hours,’’ Surendra Srivastava, a police spokesman, told The Associated Press in Lucknow, the capital Uttar Pradesh.
    Other parts of India were also hit hard. In Mumbai, the country’s bustling financial capital, people waded through knee-deep water that covered many streets after severe overnight rains.
    The monsoon season in South Asia runs from June to September and is vital to the region’s agriculture. But the monsoons are always dangerous; last year more than 1,000 people died, most by drowning, landslides or house collapses.
    With swollen rivers bursting their banks after days of rain, that danger is again being made clear on the fertile plans that stretch along the southern edge of the Himalayas and provide food for hundreds of millions of people.
    In one of the worst single incidents this year, 28 people died when an overcrowded boat evacuating them capsized on an engorged river Wednesday.
    So far this year, some 14 million people in India and 5 million in Bangladesh have been displaced or marooned by the flooding, according to government figures. At least 132 people have died in recent days because of the floods in India and 54 more in Bangladesh.
    In Assam, in northeastern India, about 100,000 displaced people were staying in government relief camps while hundreds of thousands of others sought shelter on higher ground, setting up makeshift dwellings. Millions of people have been cut off from the rest of the country.
    Haneefa Begum and her two children fled their village in western Assam for a makeshift relief camp six miles away. She said the portions of rice and lentils she was given were not enough to stave off hunger.
    Millions more have been left homeless in other parts of India, and officials say the floods have destroyed crops worth millions of dollars.
    In neighboring Bangladesh, the floods inundated parts of a major highway connecting Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, with much of the rest of the country.
    India’s Meteorological Department said unusual monsoon patterns this year have led to heavier than normal rains. ‘‘We’ve been getting constant rainfall in these areas for nearly 20 days,’’ said B. P. Yadav, a spokesman for the department.
    ———
    Associated Press reporters Farid Hossain in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow, Ramola Talwar Badam in Mumbai and Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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