People in Dinajpur district of Bangladesh look at damage to a major highway in a devastating flood in September 2017. Weather experts predict heavy flooding in the monsoon season will affect 37 out of 64 districts. (ucanews.com photo)
The government and aid groups in Bangladesh are preparing for disastrous flooding in the upcoming monsoon season.
About 200,000 Rohingya refugees living in areas prone to flooding and landslides are being evacuated to safe areas.
Weather forecasters have warned that the monsoon, which usually starts in June and lasts until August, will arrive early at the end of May.
Heavy rain is expected to overflow major rivers that could cause flooding in 37 out of 64 districts in the low-lying country, according to the state-run Meteorological Department.
"Analyzing data of rainfall over the past few years and a gradual change in the weather pattern, we have reasons to believe the monsoon this year is likely to be more devastating," Ujjal Kanti Pal, an officer from the department, told ucanews.com.
Warning signs have been visible since April 14 as seasonal storms have caused flooding in urban and rural areas.
Major cities recorded heavy rainfall from April 28-30, with capital Dhaka having 146 millimeters of rain on April 28-29, which meteorologists termed "unprecedented."
At least 70 people have been killed in lightning strikes this year, mostly in rural areas, local media reported. Lightning killed 380 in 2016 and 307 in 2007, according to the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry.
Landslides during last year's monsoon killed 166, mostly indigenous people in southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts.
An overview of Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in March. Authorities have been evacuating and resettling 200,000 refugees sheltering in risky areas prone to flooding and landslides. (ucanews.com photo)
The ministry had an emergency meeting in Dhaka on May 1 to determine action plans to tackle flooding and landslides. The meeting also covered the situation of nearly one million Rohingya refugees living in Cox's Bazar in southeast Bangladesh.
Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury told journalists that disaster preparations are in place.
"We are prepared early for any kind of disaster including flooding, heavy rain, landslide and deaths in lightning strikes. Local government offices in every district have been advised to stay alert for any emergency," Chowdhury said.
All districts have been allocated 200 metric tonnes of rice, corrugated iron sheets and 500,000 taka (US$5,880) to respond to disasters in the primary stage, the minister said.
"Out of about 1.1 million Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh, about 200,000 living in risky areas prone to flooding and landslides are being evacuated to safe areas. The military and navy have been advised to remain ready for an emergency response," Chowdhury added.
Shah Kamal, secretary of the ministry, told ucanews.com that 100,000 Rohingya have already been moved to safer ground and the rest are being evacuated.
Pintu William Gomes, senior manager of disaster management at Catholic charity Caritas, said preparations are in place to tackle emergencies that also cover refugees.
"Bangladesh has greatly improved its disaster warning system. Early preparation by the government is welcome, and we have plans to collaborate with them," Gomes told ucanews.com.
Caritas has been helping with the evacuation and resettlement of 20,000 Rohingya families in Cox's Bazar.