‘Serious humanitarian crises’ in South Asia as floods affect over 16 million peole

Indian residents wade through flood waters in Balurghat in West Bengal on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 19 August 2017
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‘Serious humanitarian crises’ in South Asia as floods affect over 16 million peole

KATMANDU/GUWAHATI: More than 16 million people have been affected by floods in South Asia, aid workers and officials said, with heavy rains and damaged roads hampering relief efforts amid severe food shortages and a growing risk of waterborne diseases.
Heavy monsoon rains in Nepal, Bangladesh and India have killed more than 343 people, officials and aid workers said.
“This is fast becoming one of the most serious humanitarian crises this region has seen in many years,” said Martin Faller, deputy regional director for Asia Pacific at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“Millions of people face severe food shortages and disease. We fear (it) will get worse in the days and weeks ahead.”
More than a third of Bangladesh and Nepal have been flooded, Faller said.
In Nepal, 27 of 75 districts were either submerged or hit by landslides, leaving villages and communities stranded without food, water and electricity.
Home Ministry official Shankar Acharya said 131 people had been killed and 30 were missing.
“We need donors’ assistance and support from social organizations,” an official statement said.
Aid workers are rushing to deliver tarpaulins for temporary shelter, food and water, said Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, secretary general of the Nepal Red Cross Society.
Residents face “severe food shortages,” as food crops have been wiped out in the worst floods in 15 years, he said.
The risk of a “significant public health crisis” from waterborne diseases such as cholera is also high, charity WaterAid said.
In Bangladesh, flood levels have reached record highs. At least 56 people have been killed and about 4 million are affected, the Red Crescent said Thursday.
The situation could get worse as swollen rivers carry rainwater from neighboring India downstream into the low-lying and densely populated country.
“The immediate situation is extremely desperate,” Save the Children Director Mark Pierce said in a statement.
“The sheer volume of water is also making it really difficult to access some of the communities most in need.”
In India, more than 11 million people have been affected in four states across the north and east, with at least 156 killed.
“These are the worst floods in Assam in a decade,” Keshab Mahanta, relief and rehabilitation minister, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Relief operations have been hampered, even as food packets are being dropped from helicopters in the worst affected areas.
In a makeshift relief camp in Kaliabor, 160 km east of Guwahati city, families said they had not received any aid.
“We are practically starving, with no government supplies reaching us,” said Arunima Dutta, mother of three, who is sheltering from the disaster with hundreds of others.
Residents are also at risk of contracting diseases such as malaria and Japanese encephalitis, the Red Cross warned.
India’s meteorological department is forecasting more heavy rain for the region in the coming days.
“Though we come to expect these rains every year, this year is particularly severe,” Save the Children India manager Murali Kunduru said.


Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

Updated 21 May 2019
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Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

THE HAGUE: Dutch police on Tuesday arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of committing war crimes as a commander of the Al-Nusra Front militant group, prosecutors said.
The 47-year-old man, identified only by his nom de guerre Abu Khuder, was detained in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands, the Dutch federal prosecutor said.
“The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle as a commander or a terrorist Jabhat Al-Nusra battalion,” the prosecutor said in a statement, using another name for the Al-Nusra front.
It said he was held “on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria,” adding that he had fought in a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan).
The arrested Syrian has lived in the Netherlands since 2014 and was granted a temporary asylum permit, the statement said.
Police searched the suspect’s house and recovered documents, a computer and a smartphone, it said, adding that he was due to appear in court on Friday.
He was arrested based on information provided by German police, where six homes belonging to suspected members of the same battalion were raided, it added.
German police “provided witness testimonies against the suspect,” the Dutch prosecutor said.
The Al-Nusra Front was allied to Al-Qaeda but renounced ties to the group. Under a new name, it now dominates the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which holds administrative control of the Syrian city of Idlib.
The arrest of the Syrian comes as the Netherlands grapples with the problem of what to do with home-grown radicals who went to fight in Syria.
At least 315 people left the Netherlands since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 to join militant groups, according to Dutch media reports quoting official figures.
Around 85 have been killed in the fighting and 55 have returned.
The issue was highlighted in March when the Dutch husband of a British-born teenager who fled to join Daesh said he wanted her to live with him in the Netherlands along with their child.