Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

India: 14 killed in building collapse as monsoon batters South Asia

In Bangladesh, at least 29 people have died in the last week

Indian rescuers work on a site after a multistorey building collapsed following heavy rains near Kumarhatti, in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district. AFP
Indian rescuers work on a site after a multistorey building collapsed following heavy rains near Kumarhatti, in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district. AFP

Fourteen people were killed when a building collapsed in northern India following heavy monsoon rain that has left more than 100 dead across South Asia, officials said on Monday.

Floods and landslides caused by the annual deluge have wreaked deadly havoc from the Himalayan foothills to low-lying camps housing Rohingya refugees, with officials warning tolls could rise as they scramble to reach affected communities.

In Bangladesh, at least 29 people have died in the past week, including 18 who were hit by lightning and seven who drowned after their boat capsized in choppy waters in the Bay of Bengal.

Another 10 have died in overcrowded Rohingya refugee camps in the southeast of the country and thousands of shanty homes have been destroyed.

In the latest monsoon-related tragedy in India, a four-storey building on a hillside in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh collapsed, trapping those who had gathered for a party inside.

The structure – located near the popular tourist destination of Shimla – came down on Sunday following days of downpours.

Rescue workers used heavy machinery to remove heaps of mangled steel and wires from the muddied debris, pulling 28 survivors from the rubble.

A statement from the state Chief Minister’s office said 14 people had died, all but one of whom were soldiers.

One survivor, who was pulled out from the rubble, said they had gathered for a party in the building’s restaurant, “but suddenly the building shook and collapsed”.

Such incidents are common across the region during the monsoon because of dilapidated structures that buckle under the weight of continuous rain.

In neighbouring Nepal, police said at least 67 have been killed in floods and landslides, while 30 more are missing.

The June to September monsoon causes widespread death and destruction across South Asia each year.

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials said at least 18 people were killed after heavy rain triggered flash floods and damaged more than 50 houses.

Floods have also devastated much of the north-eastern Indian state of Assam where four people died on Sunday after being swept away by sudden torrents.

The state’s Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO-recognised reserve and home to two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos, has also been seriously affected by the weather.

In the eastern state of Bihar, five rivers were flowing over the danger levels with more rain forecast over the next few days.

The downpours have eased in Nepal but authorities still fear the death toll could rise, said police spokesman Bishwaraj Pokharel, who gave the latest number of dead and missing from floods and landslides.

“There are the challenges of resettlement of the displaced as many houses... have been swept away. We are also cautious about the risk of epidemics due to polluted water,” Mr Pokharel told AFP.

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials also warned the death toll could increase as rescuers struggle to reach affected areas, and with the floods badly damaging communications.

Updated: July 15, 2019 04:59 PM

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