18 dead in floods in India, Bangladesh; millions without houses

DHAKA, Bangladesh — At least 18 people have died when massive floods swept through northeast India and Bangladesh, flooding millions of homes and cutting transport links, authorities said on Saturday.

In the Indian state of Assam, at least nine people have died in the flooding, according to the state disaster management agency, and 2 million have seen their homes flooded.

Lightning has killed nine people in parts of neighboring Bangladesh on Friday.

Both countries have asked their militaries for help as more flooding looms and rain is expected to continue this weekend.

The Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, broke through the mudbanks, flooding 3,000 villages and fields in 28 of Assam’s 33 districts.

“We expect moderate to heavy rainfall in various parts of Assam through Sunday. The amount of rain is unprecedented,” said Sanjay O’Neil, an official at the Meteorological Station in Gauhati, Assam’s capital.

Due to the persistent rain of the past five days, several train services have been canceled in India. In the south Assam town of Haflong, the train station was flooded and flooded rivers deposited mud and silt along the tracks.

The Indian military has been mobilized to assist disaster relief services in rescuing stranded people and providing food and other supplies. Soldiers used speedboats and inflatable rafts to navigate flooded areas.


In Bangladesh, the districts near the Indian border have been hardest hit.

According to the flood forecasting and warning center in the capital Dhaka, water levels rose in all major rivers across the country. The country has about 130 rivers.

The center said the flooding situation is likely to worsen in the worst-affected Sunamganj and Sylhet districts in the northeastern region, as well as Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Rangpur districts in northern Bangladesh.

According to Hafiz Ahmed, the airport manager, flight operations at Osmani International Airport in Sylhet have been suspended for three days because the water has almost reached the runway.

Last month, a flash flood before the monsoon caused by a surge of water upstream in India’s northeastern states, the northern and northeastern regions of Bangladesh, destroyed crops and damaged homes and roads. The country was just beginning to recover as fresh rains flooded the same areas again this week.

Bangladesh, a country of 160 million inhabitants, is low-lying and threatened by natural disasters such as floods and cyclones, exacerbated by climate change. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, about 17% of people in Bangladesh would have to be relocated in the next decade if global warming continues at its current rate.

Hussain reported from Gauhati, India.