Deluge engulfs northeastern, northern Bangladesh


Monsoon rains and gushing waters from upstream India overnight worsened Bangladesh flood situation with experts calling it the worst since 2004 while officials estimated the flooding to have marooned at least 6 million people.

“Water now continued to surpass much above the danger lines in two of the country’s four major river basins . . . the situation is worst since the 2004 flooding,” a Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) spokesman Md Arifuzzaman Bhuyan said.

Bhuiyan, an FFWC executive engineer, said “heavy downpours worsened the flood situation which is gradually worsening in northern and north-eastern parts of Bangladesh”.

He said the trend was worsening as the forecasts suggested the heavy rainfall to continue for the next couple of days both in the upstream Meghalaya Assam and western Himalayan regions of India alongside Bangladesh.

Officials and reports suggest nearly six million people were marooned at their nearly inundated homes or were forced to take makeshift refuge elsewhere as water level in rivers in northeastern and northern regions continued to rise.

Many people were forced to initially take refuge on their rooftops amid gushing rising waters until rescue boats came at many places in Sunamganj.

The incessant downpours aggravated affected people’s miseries while the deluge by now severed entirely road links of northeastern Sunamganj district from rest of the country and forced authorities to shut down the Osmani International Airport in neighbouring Sylhet after water submerged its runway.

Flood waters engulfed several power stations forcing authorities to shut down the facilities, subsequently affecting internet and mobile phone communications as well and due to the shutdowns the entire Sunamganj district remained beyond power supplies for the last two days.

The reports said the power outage forced people to depend on candles and kerosene-lit lamps – a situation that soared up their prices at many places.

Bangladesh authorities earlier called out army troops in aide of civil administration in evacuating people or reaching succours to marooned people while navy and air force units subsequently were called out particularly in northestern Sylhet region as it now appeared to be a sea.

According to district administration officials, a 35-member naval team began rescue operations with one Coast Guard cruise and two Air Force helicopters this afternoon.

“A 60-member navy contingent and two more cruises are expected to join the rescue operations in Sylhet and Sunamganj,” deputy commissioner of the Sylhet district Md Mojibor Rahman said.

Reports said all the upazilas and half of Sylhet city, and all upazilas and municipalities of Sunamganj district, the Sylhet-Sunamganj highway and the Sylhet-Bholaganj Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman highway are already submerged.

Deltaic Bangladesh is crisscrossed by 56 major rivers and several hundred tributaries with hydrologists dividing the country in four major basins, with current flooding first exposing to its wraths the northwesternn region covered under the Meghna Basin.

“The situation in Brahmaputra Basis aggravated overnight” as the waters surpassed the danger marks at many places in northern and some northwestern districts,’ a FFWC official said.

The disaster management ministry officials said the flood hit 17 of the country’s 64 administrative districts under the purview of the two basins.

Reportedly, nearly 90 percent of homes in Sunamganj is now under water while in Sylhet the figure is estimated to be 80.

Bangladesh saw four major prolonged deluges since 1987 with the last one being in 2004.

Experts, however, said unlike their previous major floods since 1987, the water level in all four basins might not surpass their danger levels simultaneously.

“So far there is no indication that the four basins will see the simultaneous rise of waters,” Bangladesh’s leading water expert Professor Ainun Nishat said.

But, he said, the flood this time caused by heavy continued rains in upstream in India “which appears a bit extreme”.

FFWC reports suggest all major rivers of the country are in rising trend, except the Surma but forecasted “medium to heavy rainfall (somewhere very heavy) at some places” in northern and north-eastern regions in next 72 hours or more.

The FFWC, which shares data with Indian authorities, said the states of Assam, Meghalaya and Sub-Himalayan West Bengal of India would experience an identical situation.

The centre said as the fallout of the downpour, the Brahmaputra-Jamuna, the Ganges-Padma, the Surma, the Kushiyara, the Teesta, the Dharla, the Dudkumar and all other major rivers may continue rising in the next 48 hours.

“Flood situation in the Sylhet, Sunamganj and Netrokona districts may further deteriorate in next 24 hours while the flood condition may deteriorate in the low lying areas of Kurigram, Gaibandha,

Bogra, Serajganj, Jamalpur, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Rangpur districts,” a FFWC statement said.

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