Volunteers help during a mass funeral for victims of heavy flooding and mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Aug. 17. (Manika Kamara/AP)
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.)
Hundreds of residents line up in Sierra Leone to identify the victims of a deadly mudslide, amid fears that if the bodies are not buried soon they could spark a public health emergency. (Reuters)
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.
Satellite imagery shows a mudslide triggered by rains that wiped out part of a neighborhood in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (DigitalGlobe via AP) Bystanders look on as floodwaters rage past a damaged building in an area of Freetown on Aug. 14 after landslides struck the Sierra Leone capital. (Saidu Bah/AFP/Getty Images) Relatives of victims of heavy flooding and mudslides wait to identify bodies at a hospital morgue in Freetown on Aug. 16. (Manika Kamara/AP) Residents wade through floodwaters in Malda in the Indian state of West Bengal on Aug. 24. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images) Villagers travel on a boat in the Morigaon district of the northeastern Indian state of Assam on Aug. 14. (European Pressphoto Agency) People attempt to cross floodwaters with the help of rope and empty canisters next to a washed-away portion of a bridge in the village of Palsa in India's Bihar state on Aug. 18. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images) People sleep by a national highway toll plaza in the Araria district of Bihar on Aug. 19. (Aftab Alam Siddiqui/AP) An Indian one-horned rhinoceros wades through floodwaters in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam on Aug. 17. (Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images) A man carries his animals on his shoulder as he moves to safer ground in the village of Topa in Nepal on Aug. 12. (Narendra Shrestha/European Pressphoto Agency)
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