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Cattle perishing in flood-hit Bangladesh

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October 12, 2000 


KASHIANI (AP) - When gushing flood waters submerged his mud walled house two weeks ago farmer Abdur Rahman grabbed a boat and ferried his two cattle to a mud embankment.

That wasn't a safe place.

One died of a snake bite within two days and the other died of starvation.

"The cattle were all that I could save from the floods," said Rahman, 45, sitting on the embankment that has become a shelter for more than 1,000 men, women and children, plus herds of cattle.

Kashiani is a farming village in Satkhira district, one of the hardest-hit regions bordering the Indian state of West Bengal, from where the flood waters rolled down into Bangladesh.

Starting on Sept. 18 the late monsoon floods have either marooned or left homeless more than 3 million people in western and southwestern Bangladesh. At least 20 million people have been affected in neighboring India by the churning waters that have killed nearly 1,320 people across the two countries.

More than 1,165 people are dead in India, and 118 are reported missing. In Bangladesh, the official flood death toll is 30.

But the flood situation in India's West Bengal is slowly returning to normal in most areas except the badly hit North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts, the state's Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta was quoted as saying Wednesday by United News of India.

Kashiani is 176 kilometers (110 miles) southwest of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. When the floods hit, the villagers tried to save their cattle along with their families and moved to the embankment.

The flood refugees soon faced a severe scarcity of fodder for the cattle in addition to poisonous snakes, also flushed out by the deluge.

The floods washed away cattle feed, with crops, roads and houses. Relief workers concentrated on bringing food to people. The cattle starved.

"We have received some food for us from relief volunteers. But there was no fodder for the cattle," Rahman said, wiping sweat from his weary face with a hand-woven towel.

Thousands of cattle perished in the floods in both countries. although no official estimate is available.

This will mean serious trouble for farmers in preparing land for cultivation of rice immediately after the flood waters recede.

Cattle are widely used as draft animals in Bangladesh and India.

"We are worried more about the cattle than even our children," said Subash Mondol, a neighbor of Rahman.

Mondol has three cattle that are still alive.

He is fighting a losing battle as a day's fodder for the cattle cost him 150 takas (dlrs 3). This is double the money he earns a day as a farm worker.

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