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Flooding widespread in Asia

BY SUSAN KIM | Baltimore, MD | October 1, 2000

Major transport routes and communications have been disrupted, making it difficult to distribute relief,

according to Baptist World Aid (BWAid) reports. Floods have hit India, Bangladesh, Cambodia,

Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.

Along India's border with Bangladesh, recent flooding from the worst monsoon to hit the region in

decades has killed more than 900 people and marooned some 18 million others, according to

government reports. Many low-lying areas of Calcutta are underwater, according to reports from the

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). In the states of Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal alone,

floods and landslides have left about 5 million people homeless. UMCOR is working through its

ecumenical partners to provide food, shelter, clean water, and sanitation.

Just when water levels began to recede in India on Saturday, floodwaters rose again in parts of

Bangladesh, where at least 70 people are dead and nearly 350 are missing. On Friday, water covered

some 185 villages. People are seeking shelter on top of brick and cement homes, where many were still

awaiting rescue on Sunday.

To assist the homeless in India, Action by Churches Together (ACT) has issued an appeal for $700,000 to

cover flood relief items such as plastic sheeting, food aid, tube wells to provide safe water, clothing,

blankets, and medical care. ACT aims to help an estimated 200,000 people. Relief programs will be

implemented by ACT members Lutheran World Federation India and Church's Auxiliary for Social

Action (CASA), the umbrella for 24 protestant and orthodox churches in India.

In Cambodia, nearly 200 people have been killed and more than two million affected by what is also

that country's worst floods in decades. The hardest-hit area is the southeastern region, near the Vietnam

border. More than 350,000 acres of crops have been wiped out.

After water levels recede, relief officials predict that many will be in need of medical treatment to ward

off diarrhea, dengue fever, and scabies. Indian officials said that decaying animal carcasses pose a

serious health threat. Many cattle, pigs, horses, chickens, and buffaloes have drowned or died from

water-borne diseases. Cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid have broken out in crowded relief camps in

Bangladesh.

Cambodian health ministry officials are already reporting outbreaks of cholera, chronic vomiting, and

other ailments caused by unclean drinking water. Officials are concerned about a shortage of medical

supplies.

Church World Service (CWS) will likely expand its appeal for relief funds, said Donna Derr, associate

director for the CWS international emergency response program. "Detailed assessments will be

complete within another week," she said.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working through its ecumenical partners to provide food,

clean water, and sanitation in response to flooding throughout Asia. BWAid is also responding,

reporting that it gave $10,000 to the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship for flood relief work.

In Cambodia, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has been operating community development,

forestry, and water management programs, as well as peace and reconciliation programs, for many

years, and flood response will likely be channeled through those already-existing networks, said Diane

Gehman of MCC. "A lot of crops have been destroyed," she said. The Cambodian Red Cross and

government appear to be meeting emergency needs, she added.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has longstanding programs in Cambodia that

address leprosy prevention, water resources, agricultural development and sustainability, and well

drilling, said ADRA spokesperson Rick Kajiura. Relief efforts will likely be channeled through those

existing programs, he said.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee is supplying food and shelter to families in Cambodia,

and World Vision is distributing rice to affected families there. CARE is also supplying food, sandbags,

mosquito nets, buckets, and pumping machines. CARE has increased its assistance in Cambodia and

Vietnam, as swollen rivers in the Mekong River claimed more lives, and wiped out hundreds of

thousands of acres of crops. In Pursat province alone, some 18,000 people have lost their livelihoods to

the rising waters as 2,000 homes are under water and nearly 40,000 acres of rice have been destroyed,

according to CARE reports. CARE was already working in seven Cambodian provinces before the

floods, and has dispatched additional staff to the hard-hit areas of Kandal, Kompong Chhnang,

Battambang, and Pursat.

In other parts of Cambodia, people are facing severe drought. Cambodia is still a month away from the

start of the dry season, which may provide relief to flood-affected areas but will likely worsen

drought-stricken areas.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is also responding throughout Asia. In Vietnam, CRS is working in the

provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap, and Long An, said Joe Carney. Floodwaters there have now

surpassed the historic floods of 1961 and 1966. "We are working with local government officials, the

International Red Cross, and other organizations," he said. "We are distributing emergency supplies

including blankets, rice, nets, and boats." The nets and boats will enable families to fish for food, he said.

"We have been receiving written assessments from people who indicate that it's must worse than

people in the U.S. initially presumed."


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