DHAKA: Millions of people in Bangladesh have been marooned by the worst floods to hit the country’s northeast in almost two decades, officials said on Sunday, with rescue efforts ongoing as waters begin to recede.
After heavy rain in neighboring India in the past week, flash floods hit Bangladesh’s Sylhet district, causing rivers to swell and swamping dozens of villages.
At least four people in Sylhet were killed in the floods, according to data from the local health department.
“More than 1.2 million people were affected only in Sylhet district,” Mohammad Nurul Islam, Sylhet’s relief and rehabilitation officer, told Arab News. “At the moment our first and foremost concern is to save the people’s lives with necessary shelter and food.”
Authorities have opened hundreds of shelters in affected areas. Thousands of people are taking refuge in the shelters while others have stayed with relatives. Officials said that the situation is slowly improving.
“The overall flood situation in Sylhet region is getting better slowly since the heavy rainfall stopped pouring,” Arifur Rahman, executive engineer of the state-run Flood Forecasting and Warning Center, told Arab News. “This is the worst flood in Sylhet region since 2004.
“The monsoon is about to begin and I fear this region will experience several more incidents of flash floods this year,” Rahman said.
Shelters should be kept ready for future incidents, he added, and authorities should work on strengthening embankments in the region.
Though many parts of low-lying Bangladesh are prone to flooding and the region itself is used to such incidents, an official from neighboring Sunamganj district, where about 300,000 residents were also hit by the floods, said that the deluge has lasted longer this year.
“Usually flash floods don’t stay too long. But this year people are suffering more as the flood water stayed for a longer period,” Sunamganj's relief and rehabilitation officer Mohammad Shafikul Islam told Arab News.
Some residents in Sylhet district said that their homes were still submerged in knee-high water on Sunday.
“I have been marooned with flood water for the last seven days. Although the water started receding, today my house is still flooded with knee-high water,” Rajat Kanti Gupta, 49, told Arab News.
Deb Jotyi Das, 39, whose house is in a similar situation, recalled the 2004 floods and said that it “was not so devastating like this year.”
Das told Arab News: “I am really afraid of the situation. I fear the residents of Sylhet will witness five to six more flood incidents this year.
“How can we bear the brunt of so many floods in a single year?”