June 14, 2017
A Bangladeshi woman wails near the bodies of three of her family members killed in a landslide in Bandarban, Bangladesh, on Tuesday. — AP
CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh — Heavy monsoon rains have killed at least 57 people in southeast Bangladesh, most of them buried under landslides, authorities said on 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 death toll could rise as many areas still remained cut off,” the head of the Department of Disaster Management Reaz Ahmed said.
Ahmed said disaster response teams had been deployed to the affected areas to reinforce recovery work.
“We have not been able to reach many of the affected places. Once the rains are over, we’ll get a full picture of the damage and get the recovery work in full swing,” he said.
Many of the victims were from tribal communities in the remote hill district of Rangamati, close to the Indian border, where 35 people were killed when mudslides buried their homes.
“Some of them were sleeping in their houses on hillsides when the landslides occurred,” district police chief Sayed Tariqul Hasan said.
“We’ve evacuated some of the affected villagers to schools and other safe places.”
Six were killed in the nearby district of Bandarban, among them three children — siblings who were buried by a landslide as they slept in their home.
Another 16 of the casualties were in the neighboring district of Chittagong, where at least 126 people were killed when a massive landslide buried a village a decade ago.
The latest disaster came weeks after Cyclone Mora smashed into Bangladesh’s southeast, killing at least eight people and damaging tens of thousands of homes.
Monsoon rains in Bangladesh’s southern hill districts frequently trigger deadly landslides.
Heavy monsoon rains also pounded the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong in the district of the same name, which experienced 222 millimeters of rain, disrupting traffic for hours.
Among the victims were at least four soldiers who had been sent to clear roads in Rangamati district 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 themselves buried by a second landslide,” armed forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Rashidul Hassan said.
“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.”
Fearing further landslides, police in Chittagong ordered the evacuation of thousands of slum dwellers living at the base of hills.
In Dhaka, where traffic was severely affected by heavy rain, a ferry sank in the river Buriganga on Monday evening with an estimated 100 passengers aboard, police said.
There were reports of 10 people missing following the accident but a river police official said all passengers had managed to swim ashore. — AFP