Doctors prepare to fight waterborne disease in flood-hit southern Nepal

Teams of doctors are ready to tackle waterborne disease outbreaks in the sodden plains of southern Nepal where at least 71 people have perished in monsoon floods and landslides in the past two weeks, officials said Monday.

The seasonal downpours have forced some 86,000 people from their homes and into temporary shelters at schools, government buildings and makeshift tents on high ground, Home Ministry official Thir Bahadur Chetri said.

As the rain continued across the Himalayan nation Monday, health officials voiced concerns about disease spreading through polluted floodwaters.

"Due to the high risk of outbreaks of diarrhea, dysentery and other waterborne diseases, we have asked all health institutions in the area to remain on high alert," said Manas Banerjee, director general of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Department at the Health Ministry.

The government has formed rapid-response teams of doctors to be deployed at the first sign of an epidemic, Banerjee said.

Chetri said the death toll from landslides and floods has reached 71.

The south and southwest of Nepal have been hardest hit by the monsoon rains.

In Banke and Bardia districts, 500 kilometers (310 miles) southwest of the capital, Katmandu, thousands of residents from flooded villages have moved to higher ground, Chetri said.

In rural Rahutahat district in southern Nepal, the floods washed away hundreds of homes - little more than huts - forcing the already poverty-stricken residents to build an ad hoc camp of plastic and wood to escape the ongoing deluge, he said.

Floods and landslides have blocked many roads to affected areas, hampering efforts to deliver food, medicine and other relief materials, Chetri said.

Relief workers in helicopters were dropping water purification tablets and packets of food to victims stranded by the floods, said Home Ministry official Pratap Kumar Pathak, who was coordinating rescue and relief operations.

Scores of people die in the rainy season every year due to landslides in the Himalayan nation's mountains or flooding in the southern plains.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova