On Wednesday, Bangladesh launched a fresh rescue operation as the death toll due to landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains goes to 137, the most of them reported in a remote hill station close to the Indian border. The officials said that the southeastern hilly districts of Chittagong, Bandarban, and Rangamati are the most affected districts. They also said that the toll will increase as more as many are still missing under lots of debris in southeastern hills.
The authorities have confirmed 129 deaths, but the media reports put the toll as high as 137 in about three days’ of heavy rains because of a depression in the Bay of Bengal which has set off a sequence of landslides since Monday in the three districts. An official at the disaster management ministry control room told reporters that “At least 129 people were found to have died so far while several remained missing as salvage campaign is underway”. He also said about 4,000 individuals were moved to government shelters as the landslides desolated their homes and were uncovered to the risk of getting buried in fresh mudslides. The officials expected that the death toll could increase as rescuers think that it’s hard to reach remote areas where transport and telephone links have stayed cut.
With no less than 20 landslides hitting it, the southeastern Rangamati Hill area was most affected and resulted in 99 deaths, including four armed forces personnel who were doing rescue campaigns. The nearby people said that a landslide pushed 15 army personnel down to about 30 feet, killing four instantly. On the other hand, a military spokesperson said in Dhaka that an army major and a captain were among four of their dead teams. He said that the troops were asked to clear the landslide debris from a highway linking the port city of Chittagong with Rangamati. “A fresh landslide at the scene buried the detachment killing the four while one soldier is still missing. Ten personnel were wounded in the (fresh) landslide,” he said.
The authorities said that a large number of the victims belonged to the ethnic minority or tribal groups who live in temporary structures along the hills in Bandarban and Rangamati where power cuts and no road connection have upgraded miseries of the citizens. No less than 27 deaths were reported from the port city of Chittagong, which experienced five landslides while the rest of loses were accounted from the neighboring Bandarban district where the heavy rains triggered three landslides. The authorities have temporarily stopped the rescue operation at around 10 last night after recovering 129 bodies. The specialized teams of fire servicemen and troops were activated to start a fresh search campaign once more again. “We need to accomplish a crucial task of resuming Chittagong’s road communications with Bandarban and Rangamati and Bandarban alongside salvaging the landslide victims,” a Disaster Management official told reporters.
The densely populated Bangladesh is thrashed by storms, floods, and landslides in every rainy season but current year’s rain is the worst since 2007 when landslides killed 127 people in the port city. The ceaseless rains affected water-logging in many parts of Chittagong and submerged various seaside villages separated from setting off the landslides. An official of the city corporation said, “The situation forced us to demolish a protection embankment against tidal surges as it appeared to be obstructing drainage inundating homes and roads.” The environmentalists and experts described the most recent spell of landslides to illegal mining in the hills which exposed them to brisk erosion amid rains. Till yesterday, the three southeastern hill areas of Bandarban, Ragamati, and Khagrachhari known as Chittagong hill tracts obtained over 300mm of rainfall in the 24 hours.
The Meteorologists said the port city of Chittagong only experienced 222 mm of rainfall amid a similar period calling the enormous quantum of the storm in such a short span to be unusual. The landslides prompted by the monsoon rains that came two weeks after Cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh, leaving eight individuals dead and harming hundreds of homes.