From: Reuters
Published September 2, 2007 03:46 PM

Millions Try To Rebuild Lives After South Asia Floods

PATNA, India - Millions across South Asia are struggling to rebuild their homes, and their lives, as receding flood waters reveal the massive devastation caused by monsoon flooding in the region.


More than 2,000 people in eastern India and Bangladesh were killed by snake bites, drowning, diarrhea or from houses collapsing after swollen rivers burst their banks, inundating huge areas since July.


Floods damaged hundreds of thousands of hectares of maize and rice crops in eastern India, a region which contributes one-third of the nation's annual rice and maize output.


Farm ministry officials say an area totaling 5.5 million hectares (13.6 million acres) has been affected and initial reports indicate corn production could be affected.


The floods have also damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure.


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In India's impoverished state of Bihar, where more than 530


have been killed since the floods began in mid-July, people were slowly returning to their villages.


"I am rebuilding my completely disintegrated home, otherwise I will have to stay in the open for the rest of the year," said villager Ashrafi Shah in West Champaran district.


"There is no point crying over our fate, floods have become an annual ritual for us," said Shah.


Deep layers of silt and sand covered vast tracts of farmland, leaving farmers to look for alternative land for cultivation.


"Every year, we have to remove the silt and sand beds, but this year it has been very, very bad," said Kharanand Singh in Bihar's Samastipur district.


DESTITUTION, DISEASE


In neighboring West Bengal and the mineral-rich eastern state of Orissa, floods left more than 3 million people stranded, and destroyed bridges and tens of thousands of homes, disaster management officials said.


Thousands in the northeastern state of Assam remain in temporary shelters with no idea of when they will be go back to their homes.


"Although we have asked the people to go back to their localities, many are still living in camps and on roadsides because they have no money to rebuild their homes," said a government official in Assam's Dhemaji district.


Many flood victims said they had received no help, supporting accusations by aid workers that government relief efforts across the region have been inadequate.


Across the border in Bangladesh, where more than 750 people


died due to the flooding, about 6 million became homeless after surging rivers broke through mud embankments in more than half of the country.


According to a World Bank report, the floods could reduce Bangladesh's economic growth by 0.2 percent to 6.8 percent from a target of 7 percent in the current fiscal year.


Around 145,000 people are still suffering from diarrhea and other water-borne illnesses such as typhoid and hepatitis as a result, officials said.


(Additional reporting by Hari Ramachandran in New Delhi, Biswajyoti Das in Guawahati, Serajul Islam Quadir in Dhaka and a Reuters reporter in Bhubaneswar)


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