The entire world seems to be struggling with the devastating impact of climate change.
Hurricane Harvey, one of the worst storms to hit the United States in history, has tragically claimed 20 lives while displacing tens of thousands of people in Houston and surrounding areas. Hundreds of people are still stranded, waiting to be rescued, while thousands have already been moved to safer locations.
While extremely distressing, the destruction caused in coastal region of Texas (fortunately) does not even come close to the horrors unfolding in parts of South Asia, where unusually heavy monsoon rains have killed over a thousand people while displacing more than 41 million.
Moreover, the extreme weather has also destroyed 18,000 schools across the region, meaning that about 1.8 million children cannot go to classes, according to nonprofit Save the Children.
Sadly, with all eyes on Harvey, no one seems to be paying much attention to the natural disaster brewing thousands of miles away in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, where minimal infrastructure and limited resources have made matters much worse than initially expected over the last few weeks.
In fact, these are the worst floods that the region has ever seen. Yet, the unprecedented catastrophe has mostly gone unnoticed.
Are natural disasters only tragic when they affect a certain part of the world? No, they aren’t.
While everyone thinks about Texas, floods have hit Bangladesh, India and Nepal. More than 1,200 people are dead. pic.twitter.com/xLg1arLt5d— Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) August 30, 2017
While climate change isn’t a “cause” of these insane floods, the phenomenon has definitely exacerbated the damage.
In Nepal, torrential rain and flash floods have destroyed thousands of homes and swept away the crops, leaving the people with nothing to eat and nowhere to go to.
Since the floods mostly affected the poorest parts of the country, where homes are usually made of bare mud and people rely on agriculture, most of the victims have lost all of their belonging, while dozens are still looking for their lost family members. Villagers have taken to travel on makeshifts bamboo and banana leaf-rafts while rescue workers are using elephants to wade through several feet of water to help stranded residents and tourists.
With local government not being able to handle the situation, due to lack of financial resources and the severity of the rain, hundreds of thousands of people are stuck living under plastic tarps where disease is beginning to spread.
“This is the severest flooding in a number of years,” Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told The New York Times. “We hope people won’t overlook the desperate needs of the people here because of the disasters closer home.”
In India, the states of Assam, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal are among the worst affected regions.
However, it was the photos and videos coming out of Mumbai, the biggest city and the financial hub of India, which truly captivated the attention of international media, as pictures showed submerged train stations and people struggling to escape waist-deep water in a city where heavy rainfall is not an anomaly.
The situation isn’t much different in Bangladesh either.
“Many flood survivors have lost everything: their homes, their possessions, their crops,” said Christa Rader, the Bangladesh country director for the U.N. World Food Program. “People need food right now, and the full impact on longer-term food security threatens to be devastating.”
Although the country grapples with heavy flooding almost every year, the recent floods have been the worst in at least last 40 years. To put things into perspective, nearly one-third of the terrain is now covered in water… and the rain is showing no signs of stopping.
“If you compare the shelter conditions in Bangladesh to Texas, as dire as the condition may seem in Texas, typically, we would at least have safe structures on safe ground — not in flood plains,” Jono Anzalone, the vice president of international services at the American Red Cross, told NPR. “For better or for worse, when people look at the U.S. response system, we have a very mature federal disaster response system… You don’t see that in Nepal, Bangladesh or India. In Nepal and Bangladesh, the government simply doesn’t have the resources.”
At least 140 people have died in Bangladesh in the last three week while more than 700,000 homes have been destroyed.
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Cathal McNaughton