Death toll in South Asia monsoon flooding rises to 245

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Flood-affected villagers wait for relief material on a broken road washed away by floodwaters in Morigaon district, east of Gauhati, northeastern state of Assam, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
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Bystanders look on as floodwaters rage near a house in Kurigram, northern Bangladesh on August 14, 2017. (AFP)
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Bangladeshi stand on a raft made of banana tree trunks in an area submerged by flood in Kurigram, northern Bangladesh on August 14, 2017. (AFP)
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Flood-affected Indian villagers move on a banana raft to collect drinking water at Murkata village, east of Gauhati, north eastern Assam state, India, on Aug. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
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Nepali police officers clean their office area at Tilathi Village in Saptari district, some 450km southeast of Katmandu, on Tuesday. (AFP / Prakash Mathema)
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Flood-affected villagers travel by boat in floodwaters in Morigaon district, east of Gauhati, northeastern state of Assam, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Updated 15 August 2017

Death toll in South Asia monsoon flooding rises to 245

KATMANDU/DHAKA: The death toll in flooding and landslides that devastated parts of northern India, southern Nepal and Bangladesh over the past few days has risen to 245, while millions of others have been displaced, officials said Tuesday.
In Nepal, authorities scrambled to send relief supplies to flood-hit areas where incessant rain has flooded hundreds of villages, killing 110 people.
Security forces helped rescue people marooned on rooftops, while helicopters were distributing food and drinking water packets in the worst-hit southern districts.
With hundreds of thousands of people affected by the floods, the government was focusing on moving in relief supplies as soon as possible, said Ram Krishna Subedi, a home ministry spokesman.
Nepal’s home minister, Janardan Sharma, spent the morning at a relief distribution center at Katmandu’s airport to ensure that the aid was reaching all areas affected by the flooding. Nepal’s government has been under criticism for not being able to reach people desperate for help.
Across Nepal’s southern border, flooding swamped 13 districts in the Indian state of Bihar. Officials said 41 people had been killed, many from drowning, or after being caught in collapsed houses or under toppled trees.
Television pictures showed people wading chest-deep through water carrying belongings and livestock.
“We will now focus more on rescue of those trapped in floods and relief distribution. People have nothing to eat, no clothes. So we have to provide them something to eat and save their lives,” said Nepali police spokesman Pushkar Karki.
Some 200,000 people were temporarily living in the more than 250 relief camps that the government has set up in school and government buildings.
In Bangladesh, at least 18 major rivers were flowing at dangerously high levels, according to the state-run Flood Forecasting and Warning Center.
Over the past two days, 27 people have died in the low-lying delta nation, while another 600,000 are marooned, Bangladesh’s disaster management minister, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury, said. Around 368,000 people have taken refuge in more than 970 makeshift government shelters, he said.
Deadly landslides and flooding are common across South Asia during the summer monsoon season that stretches from June to September.
The situation could get worse as heavy rain in parts of neighboring India flow downstream into the low-lying and densely populated country, they said.
Indian soldiers in boats and helicopters helped distribute food packets, medicine and drinking water to people affected by the floods.
Forty-six people were killed in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday when two buses were buried by a landslide in the Himalayan foothills. Another 21 have died in the remote northeastern state of Assam, where soldiers raced to rescue people marooned on rooftops.
In the northern Indian state of Bihar, national disaster relief force teams have been airlifted in to help with rescue and relief work, the government said.
Media reported that about two million people in the state had been affected, and at least 10 killed. Flooding has also killed at least 15 people in the last two days in Assam state in the northeast.
India’s meteorological department is forecasting more heavy rain into Wednesday.
Monsoon rains, which start in June and continue through September, are a lifeline for farmers in vast parts of rural India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, but they also cause loss of life and property damage every year.


Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

Updated 28 min 38 sec ago

Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

  • Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown
  • China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage

HONG KONG: Thirteen prominent Hong Kong democracy activists appeared in court on Monday charged with holding an unauthorized gathering to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the latest in a string of prosecutions against protest leaders in the restless financial hub.
Last month tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown against students pushing for democracy.
The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds. It has taken on particular significance in recent years as the semi-autonomous city chafes under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
This year’s vigil was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures. At the time local transmission had largely been halted.
But thousands turned out to hold candles in their neighborhoods and in Victoria Park, the traditional site of the vigil.
Police later arrested 13 leading activists who appeared at the Victoria Park vigil.
All appeared in court on Monday to be formally charged with “inciting” an unlawful assembly, which carries up to five years in jail.
Among them are Jimmy Lai, the millionaire owner of the openly pro-democracy Apple newspaper, veteran democracy activists such as Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho as well as young campaigner Figo Chan.
When asked if he understood the charge, Lee invoked the hundreds who were killed by Chinese tanks and soldiers at Tiananmen.
“This is political persecution,” he said. “The real incitement is the massacre conducted by the Chinese Communist Party 31 years ago.”
Some of those charged on Monday — and many other leading democracy figures — face separate prosecutions related to last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage and portrayed the protests as a plot by foreigners to destabilize the motherland.
Earlier this month Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at stamping out the protests once and for all.
The law targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, with sentences including life in prison.
But its broad phrasing — such as a ban on encouraging hatred toward China’s government — has sent fear rippling through a city used to being able to speak its mind.
Police have arrested people for possessing pro-independence or autonomy material, libraries and schools have pulled books, political parties have disbanded and one prominent opposition politician has fled.
The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its contents were kept secret until the moment it was enacted.
It empowered China’s security apparatus to set up shop openly in Hong Kong for the first time, while Beijing has also claimed jurisdiction for some serious national security cases — ending the legal firewall between the mainland the city’s independent judiciary.
China has also announced global jurisdiction to pursue national security crimes committed by anyone outside of Hong Kong and China, including foreigners.