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Floods Kill 100, Leave Millions Homeless, Ruin Crops

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/08/08; August 8, 2000.]

Sydney Morning Herald

Date: 08/08/2000

New Delhi: More than 100 people have been killed and 2 million left homeless by floods and landslides in north-eastern India and Bhutan over the weekend.

The army has been called in to help in Bhutan, where 87 people have died in landslides affecting a 64-kilometre area between Chukha and Kharbanda in the south of the small country. Road links to the capital, Thimphu, have been severed and power lines washed away.

Troops in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal have mounted a massive rescue operation after the floods, which were caused by monsoon rains.

Assam was cut off from the rest of the country on Sunday night, with main roads and railways submerged. The rising waters of the Brahmaputra River have flooded more than 2,000 villages. Thousands of stranded people were rescued over the weekend by soldiers. Many others are still missing.

Refugees are camping by the roadside. "Thousands have set up temporary homes along the highway," one rescue worker said.

Floods have also caused great destruction in Bihar, India's poorest and most chaotic state. Nearly a million people in hundreds of villages are affected.

Reports suggest crops worth $3.4 million have been damaged by the floods and about 3,000 houses destroyed. Boats with divers have been sent to the area and 30 tonnes of rice has been dropped by helicopter.

The most recent floods come only a week after a northern Indian state, Himachal Pradesh, was hit by its worst floods. One hundred people died after the Sutlej River, which flows through a gorge, rose 12 metres in a matter of minutes. Dozens of bridges were washed away and villages submerged in a sudden and furious torrent.

The state's chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhunal, blamed China for the floods, which he said were caused by the unprecedented rise of a lake in neighbouring Tibet. He demanded that the Indian Government provide $US240 million ($410 million) in relief.

India's neighbours, Bangladesh and Nepal, have also suffered. In Nepal, more than 100 people are missing as a result of the floods and hundreds of hectares of farm land have been washed away.

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