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SHAKE AND BLOW
Nearly 600 dead in S. Asia floods; SLeone toll reaches 441
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Aug 19, 2017


Death toll in SLeone flood disaster reaches 441
Freetown (AFP) Aug 19, 2017 - The death toll from a mudslide and flooding that struck Sierra Leone's capital Freetown has reached 441, the government said on Saturday.

"Four hundred and forty-one corpses (were) buried as at yesterday," the deputy minister of information and communication, Cornelius Deveaux, told AFP, adding that the number of missing was "still being calculated."

A tally of deaths, issued on Friday by the Red Cross, had stood at more than 400, with around 600 others listed as missing.

At Connaught Hospital, morgue worker Mohamed Sinneh Kamara gave a slightly higher toll than the minister's.

"We buried 50 more bodies on Friday. We have so far buried 450 corpses," he told AFP. "Most of the bodies were found decomposed and families were not allowed to identify (them)."

He added: "We're receiving calls from disaster-hit communities every three to four hours about a corpse found in a drainage or under a collapsed building."

Three more bodies were found in a search for survivors in the Regent district, where the side of a hill collapsed, the emergency services said.

The disaster struck on Monday after Freetown, home to 1.2 million people and the capital of one of the world's poorest countries, had been pounded for three days by torrential rain.

According to the charity Save the Children, the disaster killed 122 children and left 123 orphaned.

The Red Cross has issued an emergency funding appeal. Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, has pledged 5 million ($6.45 million, 5.45 million euros), while China has pledged $1 million (850,000 euros) and Togo $500,000.

Water-borne diseases such as cholera and malaria are a major fear.

"This is a potential health hazard. That's why we need to continue the operations to ensure that we remove as much dead bodies as possible," said Colonel Abu Bakarr Sidique Bah of the Sierra Leone armed forces.

But the search for victims has been arduous, especially in the Regent neighbourhood.

"It is actually thousands of tonnes of rubble that have fallen... (down) the hill... And the inclement weather, the rain, has also made it very difficult for equipment to move within the affected area," he said.

Flooding is an annual menace in Sierra Leone, where ramshackle homes are regularly swept away by seasonal rains. In 2015, floods killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Nearly 600 people have died and millions have been affected by monsoon floods in South Asia, officials said Saturday, as relief and rescue operations continued.

The latest floods and landslides in the subcontinent began in the second week of August, as the annual monsoon strengthened its grip over the northern and eastern parts of the region.

Indian authorities sought military help in two districts of northern Uttar Pradesh state after fresh heavy rains left hundreds of villages marooned.

As many as 33 out of 75 districts in the most populated Indian state are reeling from floods that have left 55 people dead.

"We have sought army's help to reach out to the affected people," T P Gupta, a senior official from the state's disaster management authority, told AFP.

Nearly 100,000 people have moved to shelters, with authorities estimating another two million have been hit by the deluge.

In India's worst hit Bihar state the death toll reached 153 following one of the deadliest floods to hit the region since 2008.

Nearly 400,000 people have sought shelter in relief camps and an estimated 10 million have been affected by the flood.

Anirudh Kumar, a top disaster management agency official in the state, said more than 5,000 emergency workers including 2,000 soldiers were supporting relief and rescue operations.

"Nearly 1,300 shelters have been opened to accommodate the affected people," Kumar told AFP.

Both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh border Nepal, which was hit by floods at the weekend and where the death toll is 123. At least 20 percent of the 28 million population is affected in what the United Nations has called the worst flood to hit the country in 15 years.

Further east in India, at least 60 people have died in floods that hit Assam state a second time in less than four months and nearly 425,000 remain in relief camps.

Railway connectivity between the remote region and mainland remained suspended for the sixth consecutive day following large scale damage to the tracks.

Authorities in West Bengal state said the flood waters were receding after a lull in the rains but 52 so far deaths were reported . More than a million people have been affected.

- 'Humanitarian crisis' -

At least a hundred people have died in neighbouring Bangladesh with close to six million affected by the floods.

The government has opened nearly a thousand shelters in schools and colleges where nearly 300,000 people have taken shelter, the country's disaster management department said.

But there are still pockets of the country where help has yet to reach.

Poresh Mondol, a farmer in the northern district of Kurigram, one of the worst hit areas, has been camping with his family on the roof of his tin-shed house, most of which was submerged.

"No one has come to us with any help. We are left with the last fist-full of dry goods," he told AFP by phone.

The International Red Cross called it a humanitarian crisis and said urgent action was needed.

"Millions of people across Nepal, Bangladesh and India face severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood waters," said Martin Faller, deputy regional director for Asia Pacific, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Every year hundreds die in landslides and floods during the monsoon season that hits India's southern tip in early June and sweeps across the South Asia region for four months.

A massive landslide in India's Himachal Pradesh state swept two passenger buses off a hillside, killing 46 people on Sunday.

Eight others, including two soldiers, were killed in Uttarakhand state in landslides on Monday.

Nearly 350 people died in the first wave of floods that began mid-July in India's western Gujarat state and several remote northeastern states.

SHAKE AND BLOW
Sierra Leone appeals for urgent help after deadly floods
Freetown (AFP) Aug 16, 2017
Sierra Leone's president issued a desperate appeal for help, a day after flooding ravaged the country's capital, killing more than 300 people and leaving hundreds more missing. President Ernest Bai Koroma fought back tears and said the devastation was "overwhelming us", as he toured Regent, one of the worst-hit areas. "Entire communities have been wiped out," Koroma said Tuesday. "We nee ... read more

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