Over 150 people were killed in one of the worst landslides to hit Bangladesh, triggered by torrential rains, with most of the causalities reported from a remote hill district close to the Indian border. “We have recorded 152 deaths and 13 more bodies were found as the rescue works is underway and many are reported missing,” an official said. The southeastern Rangmathi hill district, which borders Mizoram and Tripura, was the worst hit with at least 20 landslides hitting it. The district alone saw 105 deaths, including four army personnel who were engaged in rescue operations. Bangladesh’s MeT office issued a warning today predicting “heavy to very heavy rainfall likely to occur at places over northeastern Sylhet and southeastern Chittagong administrative divisions during next 24 hours”. It said the heavy downpour was likely to trigger fresh landslides, “at hilly regions of Sylhet and Chittagong divisions”. According to an official at the Disaster Management Ministry, until this morning, the casualties were reported from southeastern hill districts of Rangamati and Bandarban, bordering the port city of Chittagong. 142 people were killed in landslides, while others were drowned or killed in lightning, Uddin said. The disaster claimed 29 lives in Chittagong, six in Bandarban, two in Cox’s Bazar and one in Khagrachhari. The disaster management officials earlier said over 4,000 people were moved to different government shelters as the landslides ravaged their homes or they were exposed to danger of fresh such mudslides.
Officials feared that the death toll could rise as rescuers find it difficult to reach remote areas where telephone and transport have remained cut. He said the troops were called out to remove landslide rubbles from Chittagong-Rangamati Highway. “A fresh landslide at the scene buried the detachment killing the four while one soldier is still missing. Ten personnel were injured in the landslide,” he said. Many of the victims belonged to the ethnic minority or tribal groups who live in makeshift structures along the hills in Bandarban and Rangamati where power cuts and no road connection have enhanced miseries of the residents, officials said. Densely populated Bangladesh is battered by storms, floods and landslides every rainy season but this year’s rain is the worst since 2007 when landslides killed 127 people in the port city.
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The incessant rains caused water-logging in many parts of Chittagong and submerged a number of coastal villages apart from triggering the landslides. Experts and environmentalists attributed the latest spell of landslides to illegal hill cuts exposing the sandy hills to quick erosion during protracted rains. The three southeastern hill districts of Ragamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari known as Chittagong hill tracts received over 300mm of rainfall in the 24 hours till yesterday.
Meteorologists said the port city of Chittagong alone experienced 222 mm of rainfall during the same period calling the huge quantum of downpour in such a short time to be unusual. The landslides triggered by the monsoon rains came two weeks after Cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh, leaving eight people dead and damaging hundreds of homes.