Monsoon floods kill at least 160 across South Asia

GAUHATI, India — Heavy monsoon rains have unleashed landslides and floods that killed at least 160 people in recent days and displaced millions more across northern India, southern Nepal and Bangladesh.

Officials said today that they were still trying to determine the scale of the disaster, as weather forecasters predicted more rain and casualties were reported in multiple locations across the Himalayan foothills of South Asia.

Many of those killed had drowned or been caught in collapsed houses or under toppled trees.

Nepalese police were searching today for 85 people reported missing after rivers burst their banks and killed at least 75, according to police spokesman Pushkar Karki.

“The death toll may go up further as reports come in from remote areas,” Karki said.

The floods destroyed key rice crops in Nepal and drove thousands of farmers and their families to take shelter in schools or tents on higher ground, as water submerged roads and cut transport to affected areas. Aid workers said many did not have enough food or water.

“The heavy rains hit at one of the worst times, shortly after farmers planted their rice crop,” Sumnima Shrestha, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-based anti-poverty charity Heifer International, said in a statement.

“Making matters worse, large numbers of livestock have been swept away in the flash flooding.”

Landslides and flooding are common across South Asia during the summer monsoon season, and have become more dangerous thanks to widespread deforestation and poor urban planning that makes it harder for the land to absorb rainfall.

Bangladesh was bracing for worse flooding today, as weather forecasters predicted more rain.

At least 18 major rivers were flowing at dangerously high levels, according to the state-run Flood Forecasting and Warning Center.

Twenty people have been killed over the last few days in the low-lying delta nation, while another 600,000 are marooned, the country’s disaster management minister said today.