Bangladesh’s northeast reels from ‘worst floods in more than a century‘

Floods in Bangladesh’s northeast have spread to other districts as heavy monsoon rains continue to pummel Sylhet and Sunamganj districts, leaving millions of people stranded without power, food and drinking water.

Published : 18 June 2022, 07:59 PM
Updated : 18 June 2022, 08:20 PM

State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman said on Saturday the flooding is the “worst in 122 years” in the two districts as, according to him, the level of floodwater rose by 8 feet in two days.

He hopes the situation will begin to improve on Tuesday or Wednesday with 90 percent of Sunamganj and 65 percent of Sylhet flooded. The local administration estimates around 3.5 million people have been affected by the floods in the two districts.

Enamur said the government allocated 32,000 packets of dry food and other foodstuffs for the flood-affected people of the two districts, and distributed Tk 8 million among them. The ministry sought Tk 200 million to conduct relief operations.

Heavy rains and mountain runoff from upstream in India’s Meghalaya and Assam have flooded at least 13 districts in Bangladesh, according to Bangladesh Water Development Board’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre. Sylhet recorded 282 millimetres of rainfall in a 24-hour period, the highest in the country.

In the Indian state of Assam, landslides killed at least nine people and displaced nearly 2 million from their homes in the last 10 days. Landslides triggered by heavy rains also killed at least four people in Bangladesh’s Chattogram as the port city suffered from waterlogging.

Netrokona became the third district after Sylhet and Sunamganj to be worse-hit by flooding in the Haor or marshland region. At least six out of 10 Upazilas of the district went under water with the rivers in the region flowing above the danger level on Saturday. The deluge left at least 200,000 people stranded in the affected areas of the district, according to the local authorities.

Fire service divers pulled out the body of a man from floodwater on Saturday after he went missing on Friday.

Residents of Durgapur and Kalmakandi, mostly inhabited by people from the Garo tribe, said they were facing a shortage of food for themselves and their cattle.

They said some areas did not get help from the government, local authorities, public representatives or non-government organisations.

“No one has inquired about us until now. Not a member, chairman [of union council] or an MP. There is no use in speaking to the people in the local administration. They haven’t come either,” said septuagenarian Ayen Uddin, who left his home in Bahadurkanda village of Kalmakanda due to the floods.

Many families moved their cattle to relative safety on the Netrokona-Kalmakanda road. Most of the schools in the area have been submerged, leaving no place for the people to take shelter.

Jamir Uddin, 50, set up a makeshift room with polyethene sheets and bamboos for his cattle on the road. “It worries me more what I will feed my cattle,” he said, seeking help from the local administration.

Netrokona Deputy Commissioner Anjana Khan Mojlish said the district administration opened 188 shelters for the affected people. More than 16,000 people took shelter in the centres until Friday night. The floods damaged crops of 473 hectares of paddy and vegetable fields.

The authorities sent 68 tonnes of rice, Tk 250,000 cash and 2,000 packets of dry food to the affected areas, according to Anjana.

She said dry food and drinking water have been arranged in the shelters and the authorities will start distributing cooked food later.

Railway tracks from Netrokona to Mohonganj went under water and a bridge collapsed, snapping train links to and from Mohonganj.

Train services to Sylhet have also been suspended after the railway station was submerged, while MAG Osmani International Airport has been closed.

Sunamganj has remained completely cut off from the rest of the country.

Many parts of Sylhet and Sunamganj have been without electricity since Thursday evening due to the flooding of power substations. Floods and power outages have also disrupted mobile networks.

The local administration said a lack of boats hampered the rescue operation as residents were suffering due to a shortage of food and drinking water. The government has deployed troops to help the civil administration.

Local Government Minister Tazul Islam ordered authorities to cut off any roads if they hamper the flow of water.

Md Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan, executive engineer at the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre, said the flood situation is likely to worsen in the next two days with northern districts being flooded. Floods will continue for at least a week.

In the north, the low-lying areas of Kurigram, Gaibandha, Bogura, Sirajganj, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Rangpur have been flooded. Jamalpur, a central district neighbouring Netrokona, has also been affected. Small-term floods may affect Rajbari, Faridpur, Munshiganj and Shariatpur districts.

More than 200,000 people have been stranded in Kurigram. They are facing an acute shortage of food and drinking water, according to the local administration. Md Abdul Hye Sarker, the relief and rehabilitation officer of the district, said 60 homes were lost to river erosion.

Bangladesh Meteorological Department said light to moderate rains or thundershowers accompanied by temporary gusty wind and intense lightning flashes are likely to occur at most places over Rangpur, Rajshahi, Mymensingh, Dhaka, Khulna, Barishal, Chattogram and Sylhet divisions with moderately heavy to very heavy falls at places over the country.