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Floods Spread in India, Bangladesh

October 1, 2000

NAKPUL, India (AP) _ Fresh flooding submerged new areas in India and Bangladesh on Sunday, forcing thousands more residents to flee in a region where 20 million people have already been effected and more than 1,040 people have been killed, officials said.

At least 10,000 people displaced by new flooding crammed schools, stationary train cars, rooftops of buildings, movie theaters or gathered along roadsides in the North 24 Parganas district, 40 miles east of Calcutta.

Officials in India’s West Bengal state said Sunday that 997 people had died in flooding over the past three weeks. At least 45 people have been killed in neighboring Bangladesh. Some 20 million people are either marooned by rising waters or have been driven from their homes.

``The waters started rising after midnight on Saturday and soon it submerged our house,″ Sobha, a 25-year-old woman who uses one name, said after fleeing her home in Maslanpur to the nearby village of Nakpul.

In Bangladesh, flood waters gushed to new areas and rains lashed the region due to a low pressure system building up in the Bay of Bengal and heading toward Bangladesh’s southern coast, the Meteorological Office in Dhaka said in a statement.

In India, the water level has receded in and around Calcutta, but thousands of villagers scrambled for relief boats in other regions after the flooding in the Ichamati and Jamuna rivers, relief officials said. Many more remained stranded in their flooded villages for lack of boats.

Boats are scarce in this farming region, where such deadly floods are rare. Desperate people spent most of their savings to pay boatmen and move to safer places.

The region is home to at least 40,000 people affected by the flood waters that washed away mud-and-thatch huts, roads, small bridges and standing rice crops in fields.

Mohammad Abu Gazi said he paid two weeks’ worth of earnings, around $7, to a boatman to ferry himself, his wife, a two-year-old nephew and three goats to Nakpul, a small trading center.

``Saving my family is more important than having the money. We must live first,″ said Gazi. He later joined a group of about 1,000 men, women and children, who rushed to get into a relief truck ferrying flood victims to relief camps a few miles away.

Many of the homeless have gathered on open ground along the 60-mile highway that connects Calcutta with the Bangladeshi border town of Benapole, also under flood water.

``The number of homeless people is increasing by the hour. There are reports that the water may rise further in next 48 hours, relief worker Krishna Roy Chowdhury told The Associated Press. Chowdhury stood on the platform of the Maslanpur railroad station, which has been occupied by thousands of flood victims.

On the tracks, a 10-car train stood overcrowded with homeless people, desperate to leave to safety.

Passenger bus services between Bangladesh and India have been suspended. Thousands of homeless people, carrying their belongings and escorting cattle, milled on the highway that is also under threat of being flooded.