Floods in Asia exact heavy toll

Fatalities and damage mount as Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan face monsoon onslaught
Straits Times 14 Sep 11;

MONSOON rains continued to wreak havoc across parts of South-east and South Asia, raising the death toll in Thailand alone to 87 over the past two months.

Twenty-one provinces in the world's largest rice exporter remain inundated, the government said.

A total of 48 of the country's 76 provinces have been flooded since July 25, affecting as many as five million people and damaging as much as 588,800ha of agricultural land.

Near the popular beach resort of Pattaya, 100km south-east of Bangkok, Thai teams yesterday hunted dozens of crocodiles that had escaped from a flooded farm, retrieving 22.

The animals had escaped from the Million Year Stone Park and Crocodile Farm after heavy rain triggered a flood that washed through the tourist attraction on Monday.

'We don't know how many are still missing but I'm confident that we can catch them all because these animals aren't used to finding food for themselves,' farm spokesman Suthawudh Temthab said.

The Nation newspaper criticised the government's response to the floods, saying it showed a lack of planning. In an editorial, the newspaper called on the Thai government to install warning sirens to alert people in disaster-prone areas to seek shelter and to plan irrigation or levee systems to prevent future flooding.

Residents of 14 provinces, including Chiang Mai, were yesterday warned to brace themselves for possible flash floods and mudslides.

In Vietnam, meteorological officials warned that water levels in the upper Mekong areas of Dong Thap Muoi and Long Xuyen Quadrilateral might rise by 3cm to 4cm daily in the coming days, Viet Nam News reported.

Local officials in the upper provinces of the Mekong Delta were ordered to inspect dykes and sluice gates to protect people and crops from floods.

In Nghe An province, intense rains over the past four days killed at least two and left two others missing, in addition to inundating 400 houses and submerging thousands of hectares of rice paddies.

In some provinces, farmers are harvesting rice manually because their machines cannot work in the submerged fields.

In Karachi, rains crippled Pakistan's biggest city and commercial hub yesterday, with few people able to make it to work or school, officials said.

Pakistan remains haunted by memories of last year's epic floods, which brought widespread criticism of the government because of its slow response. More than 800,000 families remain without permanent shelter from last year's countrywide floods, aid groups say, and more than a million need food assistance.

Pakistan's already unpopular government now faces another crisis as monsoon rains which have killed 270 people sweep through southern Sindh province.

New flood waters have made about 280,000 homeless, destroyed or damaged 1.2 million houses and flooded 1.8 million hectares since late last month, disaster management officials and Western aid groups say. Chief meteorologist Mohammad Riaz said the figures were a 51-year record, and the rains would continue for the rest of the week.

The 2010 floods killed about 2,000 people and made 11 million homeless in one of Pakistan's worst natural disasters.

Aid workers expressed fears over possible outbreaks of diseases linked to the new floods, especially among children.

Pakistan may also have lost up to two million cotton bales, or about 13 per cent of its estimated crop, due to heavy monsoon rains during harvesting in Sindh, government and industry officials said.

Pakistan called on the world yesterday to speed up relief efforts.