Death Toll Near 1,000, 4 Million Homeless in Monsoon in India, Bangladesh, Nepal

From Associated Press

Turbulent rivers swollen by monsoon rains flooded more areas of India, Bangladesh and Nepal on Wednesday. Nearly 1,000 people have died and 4 million are homeless after weeks of flooding.

India, the hardest hit country, had the highest death toll--523.

"Nobody has come to our help. We have lived for four days on a tree with no food. The politicians will come only when there are elections," said Harbhajan Kaur, a 65-year-old woman in Punjab state, the worst-hit area.

In Nepal, seven Chinese engineers working on an irrigation project were washed away in a flash flood Tuesday, Home Minister Sher Bahadur Deupa said. Since Monday, at least 186 people have been killed in floods and landslides in the low-lying areas of the mountainous kingdom, he told Parliament.

At least 44 people have been killed in Bangladesh since last week, many in floods and landslides and some when lightning struck their villages.

An additional 230 people were killed in Bangladesh earlier.

The death toll in the three countries stood at 983 in the four weeks since the monsoon began over the subcontinent, according to state and federal governments.

On Wednesday, seven states in northeastern India were cut off from the rest of the country as major rail and road bridges were swept away, the United News of India news agency reported.

An estimated 1.6 million people were homeless in Assam, the state in northeast India where the bulk of India's tea is grown, said its government spokesman, D. K. Gangopadhyay. About 3,500 villages have been flooded there.

More than one million people were homeless in the neighboring state of West Bengal, officials said. Air force helicopters dropped food packets and drinking water to marooned people there.

There was no sign of the floods abating in India's breadbasket, the northwestern states of Punjab and Haryana, where at least 316 people have died. More than 100 people have died in the western state of Gujarat.

Nearly half of Punjab's 1.2 million acres of crops, mainly rice, have been damaged, and the loss is estimated at $97 million.

Tens of thousands of cattle have died, officials said in Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, where 1.2 million people were homeless.

In an average year, monsoon floods in June and July kill more than 1,500 Indians and wash away property worth $300 million, according to government statistics. But the rains also provide the main source of irrigation for most farmers, who make up 75% of India's 880 million people.

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