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India: Ban expresses sadness for deaths and damage caused by floods

India: Ban expresses sadness for deaths and damage caused by floods

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his sadness upon hearing of the death and property damage caused by devastating flooding – the worst in five decades – in Bihar state, in India's north-east.

Dozens of people have lost their lives, with the death toll still rising, after a dam broke, breaching the eastern embankment of the Kosi River, which straddles the India-Nepal border.

Mr. Ban said the United Nations is ready to assist as needed, and he extended “his deepest condolences to those affected, especially to the families of those who have been killed or who are missing,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

More than a quarter of a million homes have been destroyed, affecting nearly 3 million people in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a press release. More than 1,000 villages in Bihar have been affected, with floods damaging roads and disrupting water and electricity supplies.

A further 70,000 people have been uprooted in Nepal, where the displaced – one third of whom are children – are seeking refuge in schools.

“At a time like this, it matters little how the floods started or who or what is at fault. What is critical is urgent help to those in need,” said Daniel Toole, UNICEF's Regional Director for South Asia.

He stressed that the agency's priority is to deliver urgently-needed supplies and ensure that children and women – who are must vulnerable to disease – receive medicine, clean water, sanitation and food.

“Even at the best of times, South Asia has many of the poorest people in the world,” Mr. Toole stated. “These massive floods can wash away even the most basic hope that families have.”

So far, UNICEF has delivered aid, including tarpaulin sheets, hygiene kits and water purification tablets, to 8,000 families in India.

In Nepal, the agency has supplied more than 10,000 people with relief supplies, and is hoping to reach nearly 50,000 more.