The Heat Is Online

Bangladesh Floods Maroon Two Million People

Millions marooned by floods in Bangladesh, July 12, 2004

DHAKA - Floods following a month of incessant heavy rains have engulfed vast areas in Bangladesh killing at least 11 people and leaving two million marooned on hundreds of islands created by the deluge.

Three people died on the weekend when mudslides caused by rain buried their home in southern Chittagong area. Torrents carried away two children into a river near Cox's Bazar, 160 km (100 miles) from Chittagong port city, local officials said.

Three more people were injured in another mudslide in Rangamati hill town, where authorities warned residents to vacate their homes on hillsides.

Most of Bangladesh sits astride the deltas of a series of large rivers flowing from the Himalayas and about a third of the country floods every year during the monsoon. Many people are landless and are forced to live and farm on flood-prone land. Floods kill hundreds and make thousands homeless every year.

Weather officials said the floods might spread to central areas, including the capital Dhaka, in the next few days as the monsoon had brought heavier than usual downpours.

"We are bracing for major floods across the country. The monsoon remains very active, with incessant rain falling every day since last month," said one meteorology official.

Most rivers including the Jamuna, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Padma were above danger levels. Officials said some had burst their banks while others were about to do so.

Water gushing down from nearby hills flooded the southeastern port city of Chittagong, home to four million, on the weekend for the second time in three days, the officials said.

Chittagong port authorities asked ships not to enter a flooded channel in the Bay of Bengal. They said ships could be in danger because of turbulence in the Karnaphuli river channel.

Water levels in Kaptai Lake in Chittagong Hill Tracts also rose "dangerously" threatening a 230 megawatt hydro-electric plant, officials said.


Weather and disaster management officials said the fast-rising flood waters had already swamped hundreds of villages in 15 of Bangladesh's 64 administrative districts, mostly in the north and northeast.

The deluge washed away hundreds of houses, leaving thousands of families homeless. Crops were under water in all the affected districts but no estimate of losses was immediately available.

Schools were closed indefinitely in seriously affected northeastern Sylhet and northern Nilphamari districts.

Many families took shelter on boats, highways, schools and government buildings, witnesses said. They faced shortages of food and drinking water as relief agencies could not reach victims in remote areas.

In Sylhet, where six people have died in the floods in the last two days, stranded people begged for food from reporters, a Reuters cameraman in the area said.

Imtiaz Ali, stranded with his family in a half-submerged house in Sylhet, said: "We have been without food for three days. No one has come to our rescue."

Officials said heavy rain and strong currents prevented them sending relief to remote areas.

"The situation is really bad with half of the district already flooded," said a Sylhet official, by telephone.