Skies, streams and seas have unleashed tragedies around the world this month, forcing us to reckon once more with the deadly power of weather and water. While we watch and react to the devastation wrought by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey across Southeast Texas and Louisiana, we should also spare a thought for the floods that have each taken more than a thousand lives in Sierra Leone and South Asia.
Local officials in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, said this week that the death toll from floods and mudslides triggered by intense overnight rainfall on Aug. 14 had passed 1,000. The combined death toll from floods amid ongoing and unusually severe monsoon rains in Nepal, India and Bangladesh has surpassed 1,200. The United Nations said that 41 million people in those three countries were affected in one way or another by the floods. (On the flip side, relentless drought in Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia has left hundreds of thousands dependent on food aid to avert a famine.)
These calamities elsewhere have been exacerbated by a lack of prevention infrastructure, like levees, as well as widespread deforestation, which promotes soil erosion. Many of the affected are also among their country's poorest and live in areas particularly susceptible to mudslides (on densely packed urban hillsides) and torrential rain (on the floodplains of rivers that seasonally overflow). As in Texas and Louisiana, extensive property damage, indefinite displacement and the spread of disease are all compounding the heavy toll.
Below are some photos from Sierra Leone and South Asia that give a sense of the enormity of the catastrophes there.