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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Floods devastate Indian wildlife reserve as human death toll nears 600

The Kaziranga National Park is home to the world's largest population of the endangered great one-horned rhinoceros

An Indian one-horned rhinoceros wades through flood waters at a wildlife sanctuary in India's north-eastern Assam state. Biju Boro / AFP / August 17, 2017
An Indian one-horned rhinoceros wades through flood waters at a wildlife sanctuary in India's north-eastern Assam state. Biju Boro / AFP / August 17, 2017

Rising floodwaters have inundated large parts of a famous wildlife reserve park in north-eastern India, killing more than 225 animals and forcing hundreds of others to flee, the park director said on Saturday.

Around 15 rhinos, 185 deer and at least one Royal Bengal tiger have died in the devastating floods that have submerged almost the entire Kaziranga national park in Assam state, Satyendra Singh said.

"Carcasses of animals were seen floating in the floodwaters. It's a heartbreaking scene," Mr Singh said.

The park is home to the largest population of the endangered great one-horned rhino, with about 2,400 of the animals according to the last count conducted in 2015.

Meanwhile, across northern India and neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh, the death toll from drowning, collapsed houses and landslides triggered by annual monsoon rains climbed to nearly 600 on Saturday.

Army soldiers and disaster management workers in the three countries have launched massive rescue efforts to evacuate flooded areas and provide food and shelter to the nearly 16 million people affected.

In the northern Indian state of Bihar, at least 153 people died as swirling floodwaters submerged hundreds of villages and swept away homes made of mud and straw.

Eleven million people have been affected by the floods in 17 districts of the state, said Pratay Amrit, an official in Bihar's disaster management department. Nearly half a million people were in more than 1,300 state-run relief camps, where they are being provided rice and lentils and medical care, he said.

Indian villagers use a raft made of empty oil barrels to cross a washed away section of a bridge at Palsa village in Purnia district of Bihar state on August 18, 2017. Diptendu Dutta / AFP
Indian villagers use a raft made of empty oil barrels to cross a washed away section of a bridge at Palsa village in Purnia district of Bihar state on August 18, 2017. Diptendu Dutta / AFP

In neighboring Uttar Pradesh, the death toll rose to 40 as floodwaters submerged entire villages after 13 small dams were washed away, state officials said.

The Rohini, Gandak and Rapti rivers were flowing above the danger mark and could breach their banks, adding to the sense of urgency in evacuating people from low-lying villages, said Avnish Awasthi, a government spokesman.

He said the flood situation worsened after water was released from swollen rivers in Nepal that threatened to overflow.

Soldiers used motorboats to rescue people marooned on rooftops while air force helicopters dropped packets of food and drinking water to those trapped in their homes.

Officials said 144 people were swept away or drowned in Assam while 60 others lost their lives in West Bengal state.

In Nepal, floods have killed around 110 people since the monsoon rains began in June. However, the floodwaters were receding and no new casualties have been recorded, officials said.

In Bangladesh, more than 70 people have died over the past week due to drowning or snake bites this monsoon season.

The government's flood forecasting and warning centre said on Saturday that the flood situation was expected to improve over the next few days.

Many flood protection embankments and dikes have collapsed because of the force of the floodwaters across the impoverished northern region of Bangladesh, a delta nation of 160 million people that is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers.

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Read more:

Exploring the wildly different ­Kaziranga ­National Park in Assam

Protecting India’s one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga - in pictures

Should rhino and tiger poachers be shot? Debate rages in India

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