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Man rescued after clinging to tree for 16 hours to escape flooding that has killed 1,000 people

New Delhi — A man was rescued Monday by an Indian Air Force helicopter after being stuck in the middle of raging floodwater for 16 hours. A video shared by a senior police officer in Chhattisgarh state's Bilaspur district showed the rescue from the deluged Kutaghat Dam area, which is normally a popular picnic spot. 

Another video from the night before the rescue showed the man standing on a rock as water gushed around him, clinging to a tree branch to avoid slipping into the torrent.  

Large parts of India and Bangladesh have faced heavy rainfall over the past few weeks, swelling several rivers to dangerous levels and causing widespread flooding that continues to exacerbate a record-setting rainy season blamed for more than 1,000 deaths.  

Heavy rain lashed the western Indian city of Jaipur on Friday, flooding large parts of the city and submerging cars and small houses. Videos of a bus driving through heavily flooded streets and a man being rescued as he was swept down a road coursing with knee-deep water went viral on social media.   

According to figures reported Monday by India's Interior Ministry, 868 people have been killed in the floods and landslides in 11 states in less than three months. More than 14 million people have been affected or displaced across nearly 13,000 villages.  

More than 160 people have been killed in neighboring Bangladesh as one third of the country has been affected by the flooding over the last two months. An estimated 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds of thousands of houses damaged.  

Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, and Kerala have been some of the hardest-hit Indian states, where hundreds of thousands of people are now living in relief camps.  

India Floods
A one horned rhinoceros and a calf wade through flood water at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora, Morigaon district, Assam, India, July 16, 2020. Flooding has also inundated most of nearby Kaziranga National Park, home to an estimated 2,500 rare one-horned rhinos. Anupam Nath/AP

Last month, scores of deaths were blamed on the floods in India's Assam state, where the floods were also taking a toll on the native wildlife, including the rare one-horned rhinos as the flooding inundated Kaziranga National Park.  

The Indian federal and state governments have deployed dozens of disaster management teams to the flood-affected areas to help with rescue and relief operations.    

This is always a season marked by monsoon rains in India and the wider region, but the rainfall total for August has already been 15% above the typical level, nationally. Some southern states have seen rainfall 70% above the normal levels. 

India's weather agency, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), has forecast more heavy rains in the coming three days for several states, and warned that the monsoon conditions could continue for at least two weeks. 

"The currently above normal rainfall activity for the country will continue to remain above normal for the next two weeks. It may lead to inundation of low lying areas on some occasions over central parts of the country," the agency warned

While many of India's farmers had likely hoped for rain after years with sporadic droughts and water scarcity — including an acute water crisis in Chennai last year — the flooding is now causing large-scale crop damage. Over 1.1 million acres of crops have been damaged in four states, according to government data. Officials are still assessing the damage in seven other states.  

India and Bangladesh are facing the deluge while also battling the coronavirus pandemic. Maintaining social distancing during rescue and relief operations has proven a challenge for authorities in both countries.

India is the third worst coronavirus-affected country, with more than 2.6 million COVID-19 cases confirmed and 50,000 deaths. Bangladesh, which is much smaller in size and population, has recorded nearly 280,000 cases and 3,700 deaths.  

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