Thousands homeless as Bangladesh reels from fatal floods

Roads impassable, electricity cut off, phone networks down and food prices soar in the wake of monsoon that killed 20
Thousands homeless as Bangladesh reels from fatal floods

A boy takes buffaloes through a flooded marsh in Kurigram district of northern Bangladesh in this 2016 file photo. The recent floods have left about 20 people dead and millions homeless. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)

Heavy monsoon rain has triggered devastating floods in the north and southeast of Bangladesh, killing at least 20 people and leaving millions homeless.

The floods have inundated at least 16 of the country’s 64 districts as water in most major rivers has risen above danger levels due to the heavy downpour and the resulting torrent of water from transnational rivers, according to the Department of Disaster Management in Dhaka.

At least 20 people, including children at Rohingya refugee camps, have died over the past three days, either by drowning or after being struck by lightning, according to media reports.

Thousands of people in rural areas have become homeless due to flash flooding and riverbank erosion.

Residents in major cities, including Dhaka, the southeastern port city of Chittagong and Sylhet in the northeast, have suffered immense suffering as a result of waterlogged roads and residential areas, TV bulletins have reported.  

Bandarban, one of the three hilly, forested districts in Chittagong Hill Tracts, has been among the worst-hit areas.

Thousands of people are suffering from a lack of vital aid including food and medicine, said Mongsanu Marma, an ethnic Marma and journalist in Bandarban.

“The main road connecting the district with the rest of the country has submerged under water over the course of five days and at least 10,000 people have been stranded,” he told ucanews.com. “Some small hills have collapsed and blocked transportation in many parts of the district.”

Daudul Islam, a chief government officer in Bandarban, said efforts to distribute aid had begun despite the difficulties in reaching flood victims.

“We have opened 133 flood shelters, where thousands have taken refuge,” said Islam. “A joint team of local administrations, municipalities and the army is distributing dried food and pure drinking water to needy people. Hundreds of people vulnerable to landslides have also been evacuated to safe areas.”

Flooding has disrupted road communication and inundated fresh-food markets, triggering a price hike of daily essentials, while electricity remains cut off in flooded areas, he said.

Relief efforts are continuing despite the worsening flood situation, said Hazizur Rahman, acting chief government officer in Kurigram district.

“Most rivers in northern Bangladesh are flowing at danger levels, inundating vast areas and it is getting worse” Rahman told ucanews.com. “We have distributed 280 metric tons of rice, about 2,000 packets of dried food and 675,000 taka (US$ 7,941) to flood victims. We have asked for more aid and cash for the coming days.”

As many flood-affected areas are inaccessible, relief efforts have become difficult to carry out, said James Gomes, regional director of Catholic charity Caritas Chittagong, which covers southeast Bangladesh.

“In the hill tracts, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, roads are under water and even the mobile network has snapped. Our teams are ready to assess the situation and work with the government’s flood response team but inaccessibility to affected areas is major barrier for them,” Gomes added.

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“Besides emergency food and other aid supply, our main work will be rehabilitating people after the floods subside. Once we have situational assessment reports and donor funding, we will help people rebuild their lives.”

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