Dozens Dead, Thousands Homeless in Bangladesh, India Massive Floods

Villagers in north-eastern Bangladesh crowded makeshift refugee centers and scrambled to meet boats arriving with food and fresh water as massive floods, which have killed dozens of people and displaced hundreds of thousands there and in neighboring India, today continued to wreak havoc.

In Sylhet, one of the worst-hit areas in the extreme northeast of the country near the border with India, villagers waded, swam and paddled makeshift rafts or small skiffs to a boat delivering aid that had moored to one shelter, its ground floor covered half way to the ceiling with water.

Monsoon rains in South Asia typically begin in June. But this year heavy downpours lashed north-eastern India and Bangladesh as early as March, triggering floods as early as April in Bangladesh.

With rising global temperatures due to climate change, experts say the monsoon is becoming more variable, meaning that much of the rain that would typically fall in a season is arriving in a shorter period.

Meghalaya, the mountainous region of India to the north of Sylhet, and neighboring Assam state, renowned for its tea plantations, have seen far more rain in June than usual.

In the settlements of Mawsynram and Cherrapunji, some of the world’s wettest areas on the southern fringes of Meghalaya state that overlook Bangladesh’s plains, more than 970 millimeters (38 inches) of rain was recorded last Sunday alone, according to India’s Meteorological Department.

Meghalaya has already received 174% of its total average June rainfall over the first three weeks of the month. Assam is at 97% of its average for the month over the same period.

On the other side of the mountain range to the north of Sylhet in India’s Assam state, the torrential rains sent the Brahmaputra River spilling over its banks in many areas, causing destruction and triggering massive landslides.

Assam authorities reported 10 more flood deaths today, bringing its total to 64, with 17 others killed in landslides.

The Brahmaputra River flows from India into northern Bangladesh on its way to the Bay of Bengal, and Bangladesh’s Flood Forecast and Warning Center today warned of dangerously high waters for the next five days.

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