Over 1,200 people are dead, millions displaced and a third of Bangladesh is under water after devastating floods hit parts of South Asia.
Rain was still coming this week after a fortnight of intense monsoon rains flooded parts of Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Coming weeks could see similar devastation hit Pakistan as the rains move west.
At least 41 million people have been affected, according to the United Nations and aid agencies, and over 950,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
Up to 18,000 schools have also been damaged, affecting over a million children.
Buildings, bridges and swathes of farmland have been washed away. Many survivors have lost their crops or livestock. For subsistence farmers this could mean total destitution.
One survivor in Bangladesh, Adere Begum, told the Red Crescent, “It’s natural for us, flooding, but this time it was above knee level in the house.
“The children were frightened of the snakes in the water. My animals died, all drowned.”
The worst hit areas are the states of Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in north eastern India. But even the city of Mumbai far to the south has been hit. Relief agencies say the most urgent priority now is sanitation.
Flood waters could stagnate before receding slowly, creating a breeding ground for deadly diseases and the risk of epidemics that could kill many more. And survivors need help to rebuild their lives. Rice farmers in particular have a short window in which to replant crops. Yet aid from foreign governments has been slow.
Britain, whose brutal empire helped impoverish and underdevelop these countries, has a particular responsibility. Its response has been shameful.
In a pathetic press release the Tories boasted of “stepping up” aid with an extra £400,000 to the Nepal Red Cross. That’s on top of £3.6 million that went to Bangladesh earlier this year.
The total is barely what the House of Lords spends on expenses each month. The regions hit are prone to flooding, and the authorities should have done much more to prepare. The dead and displaced are victims of poverty and neglect as much as the weather.
But these floods are the worst in decades, and climate change is predicted to make them more severe and more regular in coming decades.
Many may find it impossible to rebuild and instead seek safety elsewhere—including in Britain where there are existing Indian, Bangladeshi and Nepali communities.
But the government’s racist immigration policy means there are already Bangladeshis among the refugees locked out at Calais.
The devastation in South Asia demands urgent action to fight climate change, poverty and border controls.