Floods kill three, maroon 400,000 in northeast India

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Indian villagers travel by boat through floodwaters near a partially submerged house in Balimukh village of Morigoan district in India's northeastern state of Assam on July 11, 2019. (AFP / Biju Boro)
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Indian school children walk through a flooded road after heavy monsoon rain in Mumbai on July 8, 2019. (AFP / PUNIT PARANJPE)
Updated 12 July 2019

Floods kill three, maroon 400,000 in northeast India

  • More than 250 villages have been inundated in the last 24 hours

GUWAHATI, India: Floods from monsoon rains in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam have killed three people and marooned more than 400,000, officials said Thursday.
“A total of three people including two in flood related incidents and one in landslide have been killed in Assam so far,” an Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) official said.
More than 250 villages have been inundated in the last 24 hours, with 16,370 hectares of paddy fields submerged, the senior official said.
The government has pressed into service the National Disaster Response force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to help rescue those cut off.
The annual monsoon, which barrels up the subcontinent at this time of year, last week caused traffic misery in Mumbai as roads, railways and the airport runway were flooded.
In Bangladesh aid groups were providing rations to Rohingya refugees in the south-east of the country with a “severe” weather warning in place for the coming days, the UN World Food Programme said Wednesday.
Officials there said on Sunday that landslides triggered by monsoon rains had killed one person and left more than 4,500 homeless in the vast refugee camps home to around a million people.

 


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 42 min 12 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.