By Biswajyoti Das and Gopal Sharma
GUWAHATI, India/KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Severe floods in India have affected more than 1.6 million people, buried hundreds of villages and almost submerged a national park, forcing wildlife to seek refuge on roads, authorities said on Wednesday.
With the weather office forecasting heavy rain for at least another 48 hours, the outlook is grim for the northeastern tea-growing state of Assam, which suffered its worst floods four years ago that killed 124 people and displaced six million.
In neighboring Nepal, flash floods and landslides swept through villages, killing at least 58 people over two days, home ministry official Yadav Koirala told Reuters on Wednesday.
Floods and landslides are common in India and Nepal during the June-September monsoon season and the death toll runs into the hundreds every year.
“The situation has turned from bad to worse since Tuesday and over a million people have been shifted to relief camps,” Assam’s water resources minister Keshab Mahanta said.
The Brahmaputra river and its tributaries have burst their banks – affecting more than half of the region’s 32 districts.
Police and rescue workers said at least 12 people had drowned across the state of Assam in recent days.
Animals from the state’s national parks came out onto roads built up on banks and other high ground as the flood inundated forests.
The state has five national parks, including the Kaziranga National Park, which is home to two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinoceroses.
“More than 80 percent of the park is under water,” said Suvasis Das, a forestry official in the park.
Forest officials said they have rescued a 3-month-old rhino that took shelter in a backyard in a village. At least 20 hog deer were either washed away or drowned.
Assam’s Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal urged authorities to provide safe drinking water to prevent the outbreak of disease.
(Reporting by Biswajyoti Das and Gopal Sharma; Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Douglas Busvine, Robert Birsel)