Catastrophic cut-off for Bangladesh hill district after landslides

Bangladesh's hill district Rangamati is facing a catastrophe due to lack of food, water and fuel after its communications with the other parts of the country snapped in deadly landslides triggered by heavy rains.

Published : 15 June 2017, 06:41 PM
Updated : 16 June 2017, 09:02 AM

Communications to Rangamati are yet to be restored after three days as the disaster claimed 108 lives in the district.

The total death toll in the landslides in five southeastern districts - Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrhachharhi, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar - rose to 153 until Thursday.

Rangamati Fire Service Deputy Assistant Director Didarul Alam said they continued rescue operations in Shimultali, Bhadbhedi, Muslim Parha, Manichharhi and Rangapani areas on Thursday.

Additional Superintendent of Police Mohammad Shahidullah told road links with Chittagong, Bandarban and Khagrhachharhi have not been restored.

The district with a 620,000-strong population was without power in these three days. Power connections to some areas were re-established on Thursday night, but the situation was far from normal.

Disruptions in power supply has led to a water crisis.

Government-run Rangamati General Hospital tried to continue services by using power generators but it did not help reduce the sufferings of the patients.

No vehicles could carry oil or gas to the district since Tuesday, creating a crisis of fuel.

Two of the four filling stations in the district are closed.

Huge crowds were seen in the remaining filling stations. People waited in long queues for hours on end at the stations for fuel.

>> 1,900 people have taken shelter at 13 centres in Rangamati Sadar Upazila. Twenty-three more shelter centres have been opened in other Upazilas.

>> Roads in Manikchharhi, Shalbon, and Ghagra areas have been damaged.

>> 106 Fire Service officials are conducting rescue operations along with the army, district administration, Roads and Highways Division and Power Division.

>> The district's relief and rehabilitation department at Sadar Upazila is yet to get an overall picture of the damage because of the snap in communications with the other Upazilas.

'Perilous condition'

Saikat Ranjan Chowdhury, a resident of Tabalchharhi, said, "Our sufferings cannot be measured after so many losses of lives and damages to properties."

"We are in a vulnerable condition," he said.

He said the transport services were charging three times the regular fares. Traders have also raised prices of essential commodities like rice, lentil, oil, potato and vegetables. There is a shortage of products that usually come from other districts.

Additional SP Shahidullah said, "There was no power for three days. In addition, a poor mobile-phone network has disrupted communications and livelihood. We only have boat communication with Kaptai."

Local officials said the public health engineering department supplies water to 5,000 households in Rangamati town. The water supply stopped following power outage on Tuesday.

Only those who have 'pumps' in their house have water now.

The department's Executive Engineer Anupam Dey said it would not be possible to put water supply back to normal until the power supply is fully restored.

Power Development Board Supervising Engineer Dulal Hossain said: "They were yet to assess the extent of the damage."

He claimed power supply was restored in 70 percent of the areas in the town by Thursday night. He hoped to restore the connections to the remaining areas in phases.

The district's relief and rehabilitation officer Biswanath Majumder told over Tk 3 million cash and 55 tonnes of rice were allocated as assistance until Thursday, but those could not be distributed to all the areas due to snapped road links.

The district administration officials met the traders in the afternoon in a bid to control the price hike.

Majumder said the traders were threatened with prosecution through the mobile courts "if they tried to exploit the situation."

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher