Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Bangladesh monsoon death toll rises

Rescuers search for survivors and bodies following landslides on the outskirts of Chittagong, Bangladesh (AP)

Searchers have pulled out 15 bodies buried under mud, rocks and debris, raising this week's death toll to 106 from landslides and floods caused by heavy monsoon rains in southern Bangladesh.

The landslides occurred mainly in remote villages with poor roads, making rescue work more difficult.

At least 41 died in Cox's Bazar, 41 in neighbouring Bandarban and another 24 in Chittagong, mostly in a series of landslides, the Disaster Management Ministry said.

It said soldiers joined the search for the missing in all three areas and found 15 more bodies.

About 500 houses were washed away, and officials said more people may be missing, but they do not know how many.

Three days of torrential rain in the region of small hills and forests dislodged huge chunks of earth, which buried flimsy huts where families were sleeping late on Tuesday and early Wednesday. Many of the dead were women and children, officials said.

Monsoon floods are common in Bangladesh, a delta nation of 160 million people. Many homeless people live at the foot of the hills or close to them, despite warnings from authorities.

Volunteers using loudspeakers warned people about the danger of landslides during the rains, said Jaynul Bari, a government administrator in Cox's Bazar. The floods inundated dozens of villages and were disrupting communications in the region.

Flood waters covered many roads and washed away a railway bridge, snapping road and rail links between Dhaka and the three districts. An airport in Chittagong was closed after flood waters swamped its runway, but reopened on Wednesday after the rains stopped, officials said.

The government said relief workers are distributing rice and water to hundreds of displaced people.

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