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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Flood relief efforts hit problems
Indian villager carries goat to safety in village of Deuduar
Villages have been deluged by floodwater
Relief efforts for millions of people in South Asia affected by floods are being badly hit by continuing bad weather and organisational problems.

In the Indian state of Bihar, 400 soldiers are struggling to help four million victims. Thousands are still without food or drinking water.

Up to 80 more people were reported missing on Thursday in separate incidents in India and Bangladesh.

Scores have already died in India, Nepal and Bangladesh in recent days.

Accurate figures for the devastation are hard to come by. Conservative estimates suggest at least 10 million people are affected in the three countries.

Stranded

The BBC's Anu Anand in Bihar saw one aid convoy stuck in waters that are too high for road vehicles, yet too shallow for boats.

So many people were struggling just to save basic minimum items from their houses
Madhab Deb Barma,
e-mail to BBC News Online from Assam

A local bridge had collapsed, leaving villagers stranded.

Our correspondent says the Bihar government has only just appealed for federal emergency funds for the state. There are no Western aid agencies operating there.

She says thousands of people are spending another night huddled under plastic sheeting without food or drinking water.

In the town of Darbhanga reports say hungry people plundered grain stores.

Many of the flood victims say the disasters - which happen most years during the monsoon season - could be avoided if South Asian governments co-operated in managing water resources.

In one incident in Bihar, at least 25 people are feared drowned when the boat they were travelling in sank in the Bagmati river.

In another incident in Bihar, 34 prisoners are reported to have escaped from a jail district after it was flooded.

Hundreds of kilometres of roads and railways have been swept away or submerged in the state, further hampering relief efforts.

Bangladesh severe

Sixty people are also missing in Bangladesh after an embankment on the swollen Jamuna river burst.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Dhaka says that floods remain severe across the country, with 29 out of 64 districts affected.

The government says its own relief operation to distribute rice will be sufficient and is not calling for international aid.

Central areas are now coming under increasing threat as the floodwaters move south towards the Bay of Bengal.

Forecasters say low lying areas around Dhaka are beginning to be inundated though the capital itself is safe.

'Fury of the floods'

Across the border, in the Indian state of Assam, officials said on Thursday that nine-million people had been affected by the rains there since late June.

An official told the BBC that 400,000 homes have been either destroyed or damaged.

Mother and child near Guwahati, Assam
A woman takes her son to safety in Assam

One Assam resident, Madhab Deb Barma, told BBC News Online by e-mail: "I saw the fury of the floods at such a close angle that I am frightened even now after returning from the flood-hit districts of Barak Valley.

"So many people were struggling just to save basic minimum items from their houses, with schools and government buildings filled with flood-hit refugees."

Assam's Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, is demanding international co-operation to prevent the annual floods which would involve water supply control in China and Bhutan to the north.

"My children are dying in hunger," one woman, Madhu Sarma, told the AFP news agency.

"For the last three days, we have been starving and have not received anything from the government," she said, speaking on the outskirts of Assam's main city, Guwahati.

In Nepal, meanwhile, the floods have started receding after a week of heavy rain.

ASIAN MONSOON
The word 'monsoon' comes from the Arabic for 'season'
Describes seasonal reversals of wind direction
From April heat builds over South Asia, creating low pressure areas
Brings moisture-rich south-west winds in from the ocean

At least 50 people died in the kingdom over the last week in landslides and flash floods, and thousands of others have been displaced.

While parts of South Asia have had too much rain, some areas in central and northern India are desperate for it to avoid drought.

India was hit by a massive drought in 2002 and officials say that they want to be better prepared this time.

Floods and landslides are common in South Asia during the monsoon season when annual rains combine with melting snow from the Himalayas.


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WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Water is gushing down from the mountains of Nepal"



SEE ALSO:
Flood havoc mounts in South Asia
13 Jul 04  |  South Asia
In pictures: South Asia flood chaos
12 Jul 04  |  In Pictures
Flash floods hit north-east India
06 Jul 04  |  South Asia
Indian villagers tame floods
28 May 04  |  South Asia
India's river plans spark furore
19 Aug 03  |  South Asia


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