Waters Recede in Bangladesh as Aid Pours In
Floodwaters began to recede Sunday, and the Bangladeshi government said it has received $236 million in aid to fight the destruction and disease caused by the worst floods in memory.
Thousands of lives are threatened by diarrhea caused by drinking water contaminated with sewage and garbage washed up by the raging floodwaters, health officials said. More than 200,000 people have contracted diarrhea and at least 123 have died from it, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Diarrhea kills by dehydration.
As river levels began to fall after two weeks of flooding, many residents returned to their homes, officials at the Flood Control Center said. They said they expect the water level to drop quickly starting today.
The floods covered three-quarters of the nation and 53 of the country’s 64 districts, Information Minister Mahbubur Rahman said. The 53 districts have a population of 30 million.
He said 866 people have died of drowning, snake bites and disease. The government figure is considered low, and newspapers estimate that at least 1,532 people have died.
“The world has responded promptly and generously to our appeal for help to the flood victims,” Rahman told reporters.
$150 Million From U.S.
He said the United States pledged $150 million in aid on Saturday, in addition to $2.6 million committed earlier. More funds and relief supplies have arrived from Japan, the Soviet Union, the European Economic Community, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among others, he said.
The Soviet Union has offered 100 tents, 1,000 blankets and 100 tons of medicine, he said.
Danielle Mitterrand, wife of French President Francois Mitterrand, will visit the flood-affected areas during her four-day tour starting today.
Rahman estimated that the damage from flooding would exceed $1.4 billion and that 6,000 to 10,000 tons of grains stored in warehouses were damaged or destroyed by water.
Shortage of Copters
The government of Hussain Mohammed Ershad is struggling against a shortage of helicopters and boats to get food and medicine to people stranded in the countryside.
Hundreds of volunteer organizations, many run by Christian missionaries, are aiding in the massive relief effort, but reporters have visited areas where the first relief supplies did not arrive until Saturday.
“We are pooling all our resources to ensure relief, but we do not have sufficient volunteers to reach all the places in a short while,” Rahman said.
He said, however, that the country has enough food to meet immediate needs and that the government will ensure “that nobody dies of starvation during the floods.”
Rahman said he hopes the flooding of the past few weeks will be “nature’s last big slap to this impoverished nation this year.”