Landslides, rain kill 80 in Bangladesh

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA, June 11 (Reuters) - Rain and landslides have killed around 80 people in Bangladesh as monsoon showers swept the country, officials said on Monday.

Heavy rains triggered landslides that buried homes, killing 65 people and leaving scores of others missing in the port city of Chittagong, police and witnesses said.

Some 70 others were admitted to hospitals with injuries while nearly 100 more are missing, rescuers and Chittagong district officials said.

"We are facing a hell of a situation here," one rescuer said by telephone. "It's still heavily raining, and visibility has sharply declined. Roads are all under water," one rescuer said.

"We are facing huge difficulty in trying to help the victims," said another rescue official.

Officials fear the death toll could climb.

"The disaster caught us unawares, it struck suddenly," said Mokhlesur Rahman, Chittagong Divisional Commissioner.

Army, firefighters and police have joined volunteers in the search and rescue effort, but flooded roads were a big problem, witnesses and officials said.

Weather officials said 225 mm (9 inches) of rain fell in Chittagong and neighbouring districts on Monday, the highest-ever recorded in a 10-hour period.

Thunderstorms killed 13 people elsewhere in the country, including five in western Jhenaidah district alone, local officials told reporters.

The landslide deaths in four areas of Chittagong included five from one family, rescuers said.

"I am waiting for the body of my daughter, who died in the landslide that also buried my hopes," said Mohammad Yusuf 50, at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

Shops, schools, offices and businesses were closed and residents were stranded by waist-high water in some areas.

Weather officials said heavy rains at the onset of the annual monsoon season have paralysed much of Bangladesh since Sunday, and raised fears of flash floods in low-lying areas.

The weather office said the monsoon, which officially began on Friday and will last until mid-September, was unusually active under the influence of a sea storm in the Bay of Bengal.

Large areas along the Bangladesh coast have been submerged under 3-4 feet (0.9-1.2 metres) of water due to a moderate tidal surge triggered by the storm, officials said on Monday.

Ports in Chittagong, Mongla and Cox's Bazar were asked to hoist warning signals as the storm could gather strength, meteorologists said.

Some of the railway tracks between Chittagong and the capital Dhaka were also under water, although trains were still running with caution. Flights between Dhaka and Chittagong have been suspended, aviation officials said.

Work at the country's main Chittagong port was partially disrupted, port officials said. (Additional reporting by Nizam Ahmed and Nazimuddin Shyamol in Chittagong)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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