UNDER WATER

While Harvey devastates Texas, 1,200 people have died from severe floods in south Asia

Quartz india
Quartz india

A similar disaster is unfolding in south Asia as floodwaters continue to rise in parts of Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

On Aug. 29, Mumbai was hit by what is believed to be the heaviest rainfall since July 2005, when deadly floods brought the city to a standstill, killing scores of people. As the rains turned roads into rivers once again—inundating homes and hospitals and leaving thousands stranded—India’s financial capital captured national attention this week, broadcasting endless images of locals wading through waist-high water and cars almost completely submerged.

A man rides his motorbike through a water-logged road during rains in Mumbai
A man rides his motorbike through a water-logged road in Mumbai. (Reuters/Shailesh Andrade)

But the chaos in Mumbai is only the latest in a series of floods that has wreaked havoc in south Asia over the past few months. While flooding is somewhat of an annual event during the monsoon season in the region, this year’s rains have been particularly heavy in parts of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, devastating small villages, destroying property and crops, and leaving many without food or clean water. As a result, more than 1,200 people have been killed and thousands more have been displaced.

People wait to be rescued from a flooded village in the eastern state of Bihar
People wait to be rescued from a flooded village in Bihar. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

In the northern Indian state of Bihar alone, the death toll stands at nearly 500; in the state of Assam, where some 2,500 villages were submerged by the floods, thousands of residents have been affected and scores of rare wildlife have also been killed in the Kaziranga National Park, which is home to a small population of the endangered one-horned rhino, among other animals.

In this Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, file photo, the carcass of a tiger lies in floodwaters at the Bagori range inside Kaziranga National Park in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. About 80 per cent of the 480-square-kilometer (185-square-mile) park has been flooded and more than 100 animal carcass recovered, according to news reports. Deadly landslides and flooding are common across South Asia during the summer monsoon season that stretches from June to September.
The carcass of a tiger lies in floodwaters inside Kaziranga National Park. (AP Photo/Uttam Saikia)

Meanwhile, in Nepal, which has witnessed its worst flooding in a decade, according to the United Nations, some 150 people have died, and 90,000 homes have been wiped out. And in Bangladesh, nearly 6 million people have been affected by flooding, which has killed at least 134.

While these events have attracted some media attention locally and abroad, it’s nowhere near the attention cities such as Mumbai or Houston have received. And though it’s entirely understandably why the devastation of developed metropolises becomes international headlines, this year’s deluges in the less-developed districts of south Asia are a clear sign that the combined effects of climate change, weak infrastructure, and irresponsible governance are becoming deadlier as the years go by.

This should prompt some tough questions about the way forward when it comes to development and political policy, questions that both local and foreign media need to ask outside of metropolises, too.

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