Officials in flood-hit Bangladesh and northeastern India scrambled on Monday to provide aid to more than nine million people stranded after the heaviest rains in years killed at least 54 people in both South Asian countries.

Monsoon rains in low-lying Bangladesh have caused catastrophic flooding in the northeastern Sylhet administrative division, stranding a quarter of the country’s 15 million people in rising waters and swollen rivers.

“The flooding is the worst in 122 years in the Sylhet region,” said Atiqul Haque, Director General of Bangladesh’s Department of Disaster Management.

Waters cascading down from the surrounding hills of India’s Meghalaya state, including some of the world’s wettest areas like Mawsynram and Cherrapunji, each of which received more than 970mm (38 inches) of rain on Sunday, have exacerbated the situation in Sylhet.

Around 300,000 people have been relocated to Sylhet shelters, but more than four million people remain stranded near their inundated homes, complicating efforts by authorities to provide aid, such as drinking water and medical supplies.

“The situation is still alarming,” Sylhet division chief administrator Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain told Reuters by phone.

“We are intensifying our efforts providing relief materials. At the moment, the main challenge is to reach everyone and ensuring availability of drinking water.”

Flood waters had swamped the ground floor of Khalilur Rahman’s two-story house in Sylhet’s Sunamganj district, he said, and locals were using boats to get around.

“I have never seen such floods in my life,” Rahman, 43, told Reuters by phone, adding that there had been no electricity since heavy rains began on Thursday night. “Dry food is running out, there is no drinking water.”

Flood waters have begun to recede in the neighboring Indian state of Assam, where at least 26 people have been killed since heavy rains began about a fortnight ago, authorities said.

However, 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes, with approximately 220,000 residing in government-run makeshift shelters. Flooding has affected over a million hectares of farmland.

“The overall flood situation is improving,” Pijush Hazarika, Assam’s Water Resources Minister, told Reuters.

“Now the biggest challenge is to reach out to the displaced people and provide them with relief materials.”

The South Asian neighbours have suffered rising severe weather in recent years, inflicting large-scale devastation, and environmentalists fear that climate change might lead to additional catastrophes, particularly in densely populated Bangladesh.

Source: Reuters

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