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Dave Alwatan, 32, an Iraqi-American from Dearborn, Mich., wearing an Iraqi flag around his shoulders reacts happily, Friday, Dec. 29, 2006, at the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center in Dearborn to news that Saddam Hussein will be executed soon for crimes committed during his reign as leader of Iraq. (AP Photo/Amy E. Powers) AP

Flood waters that have killed nearly 1,000 people and forced more than 18 million from their homes in India and Bangladesh now may carry deadly disease to weary survivors, officials said Friday.

Authorities put the death toll in the two countries at 981—from drowning, snake bites and murder by pirates looting abandoned villages—and said cholera, diarrhea and typhoid had broken out in crowded relief camps in Bangladesh.

Late monsoon rains caused major rivers in eastern India to overflow since Sept. 18, flooding villages throughout West Bengal state, inundating parts of Calcutta, and submerging hundreds of farming villages, towns, roads and railway lines in Bangladesh.

"There are thousands of people stranded in remote villages and we have not been able to help them," Mohammad Shahjahan, a Bangladesh government relief worker, said in a telephone interview.
According to estimates by relief workers, government officials and news reporters, about 17 million people are believed marooned or living in muddy relief camps in India and another 1.5 million are affected in Bangladesh.

The homeless have taken shelter on roads, mud embankments, and schools or abandoned factories.

"I've seen many people perched on trees or vulnerable roofs of their houses," Farazi Ajmal Hossain, a reporter of Dhaka's Ittefaq newspaper said after touring some flooded villages in Jessore district, 85 miles west of Dhaka.

The West Bengal state government in India put the casualty toll Thursday at 651 dead and 231 missing and presumed dead. Another 39 died in Bihar state and more than 60 have died in Bangladesh, according to unofficial estimates.

But Atish Chandra Sinha, of the opposition Congress party in West Bengal, accused police and state officials of underreporting deaths and said the toll is probably in the thousands.

In one of the worst-hit areas, Murshidabad, Sinha said rotten carcasses of cows, goats and other animals could be seen floating, and there is an acute shortage of clean drinking water.

Water Everywhere
Floods have also ravaged Southeast Asia, claiming human lives, killing cattle and ruining crops in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
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He said reports of people suffering from stomach ailments "are pouring in."

"Though people in those areas somehow manged to survive the first onslaught of the flood, they will perish of hunger unless they are provided with food and relief materials immediately," Sinha said.

Some supplies are being dropped by air, and the army said Thursday it is trying to get more boats to the area.

In Bangladesh, waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and typhoid have broken out in the overcrowded relief camps, according to the Bangladesh Observer newspaper. Relief agencies also say they have been unable to get enough food and water to the victims.

Passenger bus service from Calcutta to Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital, has been suspended. Knee-deep water fills the border post offices and warehouses packed with imported Indian goods.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 125 million people, is buffeted by floods and cyclones every year. But this is the first time since 1935 that the western region has suffered such deadly floods.


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