At least 16 people are dead and more than a dozen others trapped after monsoon downpours that have brought death and destruction to south Asia caused a building to collapse in Mumbai.
The four-storey residential building gave way on Thursday morning in the densely populated area of Bhendi Bazaar, after roads were turned into rivers in India’s financial capital, which has been struggling to cope with some of the heaviest rainfall in more than 15 years.
Rescue workers, police and residents helped pull 30 people out of the rubble and were looking for those buried beneath. Authorities have advised people living in an adjacent building to evacuate after it developed cracks following the collapse.
The death toll could have been much worse, local officials said, because the building, which houses a nursery school, collapsed half an hour before children were due to arrive at 9am.
Thousands more buildings that are more than 100 years old are at risk of collapse due in part to foundations weakened by flood waters.
Across the region more than 1,200 people are feared to have died and 40 million are estimated to have been affected by flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Vast swaths of land are under water in the eastern part of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where about 104 people have died, 3,097 villages are submerged and almost 3 million villagers have been affected by flooding, according to local officials. Army personnel have joined local rescuers to evacuate people from the area.
The storm reached Pakistan on Thursday, lashing the port city of Karachi, where at least 11 people have died, and streets have been submerged by water. The country’s meteorological department forecast that the rains would continue for three days in various parts of Sindh province, where authorities closed schools as a precaution.
Windstorms and rains are also expected in the south-western Baluchistan and eastern Punjab provinces. The meteorological department said rains were also expected in the capital, Islamabad, and in Pakistan’s portion of Kashmir.
One third of Bangladesh was believed to be under water and the UN described the situation in Nepal, where 150 people have died, as the worst flooding in a decade.
The floods have also destroyed or damaged 18,000 schools in the south Asia region, meaning that about 1.8 million children cannot go to their classes, Save the Children said on Thursday.
The charity said hundreds of thousands of children could fall permanently out of the school system if education was not prioritised in relief efforts.
“We haven’t seen flooding on this scale in years and it’s putting the long-term education of an enormous number of children at great risk. From our experience, the importance of education is often undervalued in humanitarian crises and we simply cannot let this happen again. We cannot go backwards,” said Rafay Hussain, Save the Children’s general manager in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
“We know that the longer children are out of school following a disaster like this the less likely it is that they’ll ever return. That’s why it’s so important that education is properly funded in this response, to get children back to the classroom as soon as it’s safe to do so and to safeguard their futures.”
Floods have caused devastation in many parts of India. Unprecedented rainfall in Assam in the north-east has killed more than 150 people. Some 600 villages are still under water even though the torrential rain began earlier this month.
Rhinos in Assam’s famous Kaziranga nature reserve had to flee to higher ground. “We get flooding every year but I have never seen anything quite like this in my life,” Ashok Baruah, a farmer, told journalists.
In Bihar, the death toll has reached 514, with people still living in makeshift huts days after the flooding started. However, the flood waters, which turned fields into lakes, seem to be receding now.
In Mumbai, the rain forced nurses and doctors at the busiest hospital in the city to wade through wards knee-high in filthy water to move patients to the first floor. Outside the King Edward memorial hospital, a man going to visit his wife who was due to have a caesarean had to wade through flooded streets to reach her. Children swam or paddled down the streets lying on planks of wood.
Victims in the city included a doctor who fell down a manhole and another who died after being trapped in his car while waiting for the flood waters to recede. Others living in the low-lying areas most affected by the flooding were swept away into the sea or died when walls collapsed.
As train services ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded, unable to go home.
TV commentators voiced the anger of those caught in the chaos. The well known TV personality Suhel Seth lashed out at the “scoundrels, rogues, villains, rascals, incompetents and useless fools” in the municipal authority for not being better prepared for the annual monsoon flooding.
The deluge brought back memories of the 2005 floods that killed more than 500 people in the city.
“Why does nothing change? Why are we left to fend for ourselves when they had weather forecasts warning them of extremely heavy rainfall?” asked the author and columnist Shobhaa De.
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