DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities have evacuated nearly 10,000 Rohingya refugees from makeshift settlements in the Cox’s Bazar district, after at least six were killed by landslides and flash floods in the past four days, officials said on Thursday.
Cox’s Bazar, where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees live in 34 camps, is one of the most disaster-prone parts of Bangladesh. After days of torrential rain the refugees were moved from the cramped Balukhali camp, where many makeshift homes have been built on hilly slopes prone to landslides and mudslides.
“About 8,000 to 10,000 people from 2,000 families were relocated from their tents,” Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Shah Rezwan Hayat told Arab News.
According to commission, six refugees were killed when the worst landslide hit the camp on Tuesday.
“Our prime focus at this moment is to save the people’s lives,” Shamsuddouza Nayan, additional commissioner for refugees, relief and repatriation, told Arab News. “We are continuously monitoring the situation on ground. Thousands of Rohingyas who are vulnerable have been relocated to nearby learning centers and other safe places.”
While he expressed hope the situation would not worsen, as floodwater levels have started to fall, he added: “Everything depends on weather, which is unpredictable.”
Bangladesh Meteorological Department director Shamsuddin Ahmed was less optimistic, warning that extreme weather-related incidents could continue for several days. Intense rainfall, floods and landslides are an annual problem in the area due to its monsoon climate and its location on the Bay of Bengal.
“There is a clear low pressure on the Bay of Bengal, which is causing this adverse weather, and there are possibilities of heavy rainfall due to this monsoon low,” he said. “Some of the areas may go under water due to flash floods, and in some hilly regions there might be incidents of landslides.”
Some refugees said they had lost everything in the landslides.
“I lost all of my belongings as my tent went under the piles of mud,” Abdur Rahman, a father of three, told Arab News. “We could only save our lives from the devastating landslide.
“Now I have to start from zero with empty hands. I have no idea how I will manage the utensils and other household materials.”
Bibi Hajera said the extreme weather has heightened suffering of the refugees who were already struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and strict lockdowns.
“My five-year-old son, Mohammad Solaiman, has got a cold and fever,” she said. “Our six-member family has been evacuated to a learning center along with some other families. Now I am waiting for a doctor to get medicine for my son.”
Most of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fled Rakhine state in Myanmar after a military crackdown in 2017 that the UN has said might amount to genocide.