Monday, August 6, 2007

As the flood waters recede

In India and Bangladesh, the flooding displaced millions of people and killed hundreds.

More than 1,000 people have been killed or injured by rising waters, but aid agencies say the figure is expected to rise sharply.

U.N. children's body UNICEF said it had lost track of how many people had been affected by the floods across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

So far about 20 million people are known to have fled their homes or trapped in villages at risk from landslides, snakebites and disease.

"Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes, their possessions, livestock and fields and will have to begin their lives from scratch when flood waters recede," UNICEF said.

The devastation comes on the heels of severe flooding in southern Pakistan, caused when Cyclone Yemyin struck the country's provinces of Balochistan and Sindh in late June.

Villagers are desperate for food, healthcare, medical supplies. Some are clashing with police.

Hospitals in eastern India were packed on Saturday with people suffering from waterborne diseases, and marooned villagers clashed with police as some of the worst floods in living memory ravaged South Asia.

More than 230 people have died over the past 11 days after torrential monsoon rains lashed the region, including much of Bangladesh, causing rivers to burst their banks. About 10 million people are homeless or cut off in their villages, with little or no access to food and health care. Health workers and aid groups in Assam in northeast India were working around the clock to treat and feed many of the 3 million people displaced or surrounded by flood waters in the state with the limited medicines and supplies available. Elsewhere, villagers were getting desperate and hungry.
Meanwhile in England, insurance companies have announced that premiums for next year will rise by 10 percent.

Leading catastrophe-exposure modelling firm Risk Management Solutions has estimated the total cost to the insurance industry of this summer's flooding at 3.3 billion pounds.

Aviva, which owns Norwich Union, said on Thursday that the June and July floods -- brought about by the wettest summer since records began -- would cost it 340 million pounds and affect its general insurance results.

The firm said it expected a bill of 165 million pounds from the July floods, which badly hit central and western parts of England, on top of expected claims of 175 million pounds from the June floods.

It will take some time to evaluate which permanent changes are made by the countries affected by this summer's flooding. Southern Asia is accustomed to the annual monsoons, but this year's has been extreme and possibly an example of how monsoons of the future will behave.

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