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    Tuesday, June 13, 2017

    152 people dead as rains lash Bangladesh

    Heavy monsoon rains and landslides have killed at least 152 people in southeast Bangladesh till wednesday, burying many in their homes as they slept, authorities said Tuesday.Three young children from the same family were among those killed in the disaster, which comes just weeks after a cyclone battered the area, destroying camps housing thousands of Rohingya refugees.
    Police warned that the death toll would likely rise as emergency workers reached remote parts of the Chittagong Hills, where telephone and transport links had been cut
    Many of the victims were from poor tribal communities in the remote hill district of Rangamati, close to the Indian border, where 48 people were killed when mudslides buried their homes.
    Police also ordered the evacuation of thousands of people living in slums at the base of hills in the neighbouring district of Chittagong, where 23 people have been confirmed dead.
    At least 126 people were killed in that district when a massive landslide buried a village a decade ago.
    Six were killed in the nearby district of Bandarban, among them three children who were buried by a landslide as they slept in their home.
    The monsoon rains came two weeks after Cyclone Mora smashed into Bangladesh´s southeast, killing at least eight people and damaging tens of thousands of homes.
    Rohingya leader Mohammad Anam said the latest rains had further worsened conditions in makeshift camps that were badly hit by the cyclone.
    Around 300,000 Rohingya, stateless mainly Muslim ethnic minority, are living in camps in southeastern Bangladesh after fleeing persecution in Myanmar.
    Heavy monsoon rains also pounded the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong in the district of the same name, which experienced 222 millimetres of rain, disrupting traffic for hours.
    A ferry sank in the river Buriganga in Dhaka on Monday evening with an estimated 100 passengers aboard, police said, adding all the passengers had managed to swim ashore.
    Among the victims in Rangamati district were at least four soldiers who had been sent to clear roads after an earlier landslide.
    Thousands of troops are stationed in Rangamati, where a tribal insurgency raged for two decades, and which still suffers sporadic violence.
    "The soldiers were sent to clear roads hit by landslide in Manikchhari town when they were themselves buried by a second landslide," armed forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Rashidul Hassan told AFP. "Our team is working here to clear the dirt. We´ll know the full extent of the damage and casualties after they complete the work."
    Heavy monsoon rains have killed at least 35 people in southeast Bangladesh, most of them buried under landslides, authorities said Tuesday.
    Police warned that the death toll would likely rise as emergency workers reached remote parts of the affected area, where telephone and transport links had been cut.
    “The recovery work is still going on,” the head of the Department of Disaster Management Reaz Ahmed told AFP.
    Most of the deaths occurred in two districts, Rangamati and Bandarban, which the meteorological office said had been pounded by heavy rains since early Monday.
    Bazlur Rashid, a weather official, told AFP Rangamati had been pounded by 343 millimetres (13.5 inches) of rain on Monday. “It is still going on today,” he said.
    Heavy monsoon rains also pounded the capital Dhaka and Chittagong, a major port city, disrupting traffic movement for hours.
    The latest disaster came after Cyclone Mora smashed into Bangladesh's southeast, killing at least eight people and damaging tens of thousands of homes.
    One senior police officer said four soldiers were among the casualties in Rangamati, where a number of Rescue workers battled on Wednesday to reach victims of landslides, described as the worst in Bangladesh’s history, as the death toll from the disaster rose to 152.
    Villagers in some of the worst-hit areas used shovels to try to dig bodies out of the mud that engulfed their settlements as they slept.
    Authorities say hundreds of homes were buried by mud and rubble sent cascading down hillsides after monsoon rains dumped 13.5 inches of water on the south-east of the country in just 24 hours.
    Disaster Management Department chief Reaz Ahmed said the landslides were the worst in the country’s history and warned the death toll would rise as rescuers reached cut-off areas.
    Khodeza Begum narrowly survived the disaster, which destroyed her home and killed 11 people in her village. She told a local news website how she emerged from her home just after dawn on Tuesday to see the mountainside collapsing in front of her.
    “As I came out, I saw a huge slab of earth rolling down from the hill. Instantly I got all my relatives out of their homes,” she said. “My house was buried under mud within moments. I have never seen a disaster like this in my life.”
    Firefighters in the worst-hit district of Rangamati recovered six more bodies on Wednesday after clearing mud with shovels and water pumps.
    “The bodies were three to five feet deep in mud. We pumped water at a force to clear the mud,” said Didarul Alam, fire services chief for Rangamati district.
    The firefighters had pulled 18 people out from under the mud on Tuesday, but did not have the manpower to reach all the affected areas.
    Alam said his team had been able to reach more areas on Wednesday after 60 reinforcements arrived from neighbouring Chittagong. Authorities have opened 18 shelters in the worst-hit hill districts, where 4,500 people have been evacuated, a minister said.

    ‘Backlash effect’

    The monsoon rains came two weeks after Cyclone Mora smashed into Bangladesh’s southeast, killing at least eight people and damaging tens of thousands of homes.
    South Asia is frequently hit by flooding and landslides in the summer with the arrival of the annual monsoon rains.
    Extreme weather in the far north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram along the border with Bangladesh left 12 people dead, an official there said on Wednesday.
    More than 200 people were killed in Sri Lanka last month when the monsoon triggered landslides and the worst flooding the island has seen in well over a decade.
    Experts in Bangladesh said unplanned development in vulnerable areas was making the annual rains more deadly.
    “There is a backlash effect. These things accelerate the pace of the disaster and make it more fatal,” said S.M.A. Fayez, an environmental science professor at Dhaka University.
    Rescue work has been hobbled by heavy rains, which have cut transport links to some remote areas.
    The army said thousands of troops stationed in the affected districts as part of efforts to quell a long-running tribal insurgency had joined the rescue efforts.
    “Our soldiers based in all parts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts have participated in the rescue operations,”
    said armed forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Rashidul Hasan.
    Rangamati district chief Manzurul Mannan said 104 people had been killed there and 200 injured, some of them seriously.tribal communities have been waging a two decades-long insurgency.
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    Item Reviewed: 152 people dead as rains lash Bangladesh Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Abdul Sattar Qamar