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Aid rushed in after landslides kill 12 in Bangladesh

Communities living in dangerous areas had been reluctant to move, aid workers say

Aid rushed in after landslides kill 12 in Bangladesh

A file image of Bangladeshi firefighters carrying a dead body at the site of a landslide in Rangamati on June 15, 2017. A total of 170 people were killed in landslides during that month. (Photo by AFP)

Stephan Uttom, Dhaka
Bangladesh

June 13, 2018

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The Bangladesh Government and aid groups are providing emergency assistance in the wake of landslides that killed 12 people.

Eleven of the victims, poor indigenous people in the Rangamati district of the forested Chittagong Hill Tracts, died on June 12.

And one man was killed in the Maheshkhali area of southern Cox's Bazar, a local police inspector told ucanews.com.

Senior official Abdullah Al-Mamun confirmed the Rangamati district deaths.

"In our area 11 have been killed and at least 3 people have been injured," he said.

Some 20,000 Taka (US$235) and 30 kilograms of rice has been offered to stricken families and more was expected to be provided, Al-Mamun told ucanews.com. 

Ten metric tons of rice had been allocated along with emergency shelters and medical help amid efforts to relocate people still at risk.

One union council official complained that the families of four of those killed had not yet received aid or compensation.

"In our area four people died and no family got anything," Monindralal Chakma told ucanews.com.

"About 50 to 60 house collapsed due to landslides and the victims need food and shelter urgently."

Landslides are a common form of natural disaster in hilly areas of south-eastern Bangladesh.

In June last year, a total of 170 people were killed in landslides, triggered by heavy rainfall, including 120 people in Rangamati district.

James Gomes, regional director of Caritas Chittagong, which covers the area, told ucanews.com that lack of awareness about impending disasters is a major cause of deaths. 

"We have been trying to bring this to the attention to the administration, so they take precautionary steps and also build awareness among people in those vulnerable areas ahead of the monsoon," Gomes said.

"We will offer support as per the situation demands." 

This week's landslides did not strike much of the Cox's Bazar area, where up to one million Rohingya refugees live in overcrowded camps.

However, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 12 warned of dangers posed by the start of the monsoon season.

"Based on aerial mapping of the settlements, we estimate that up to 200,000 refugees could be at risk of landslides and floods and still need to be moved to safer areas," UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said.

"Of this population, more than 41,000 are at high risk of landslides.

"But, due to the hilliness of the terrain, limited availability of flat land is a major challenge to relocating the most at risk families."

So far, more than 14,000 refugees at high risk of landslides across the settlements have been relocated to safer areas.

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