Millions stranded as floods ravage parts of Bangladesh, India, more rain forecast

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DHAKA/GUWAHATI, India, June 18 (Reuters) – Monsoon rains caused widespread flooding in northeastern Bangladesh and India, stranding nearly 6 million people, authorities said on Saturday, warning the situation could worsen.

The flooding in Bangladesh, described by a government expert as potentially the country’s worst since 2004, was exacerbated by the runoff from heavy rain across Indian mountains. Rain continued on Saturday, with more forecast over the next two days.

“Much of the country’s northeast is underwater and the situation is getting worse as heavy downpour continues,” said Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain, chief administrator of Bangladesh’s Sylhet region.

Seasonal monsoon rains, a lifeline for farmers across South Asia, also typically cause loss of life and property every year.

Rickshaw pullers ride their rickshaws during a rain in Dhaka Bangladesh, 18 June, 2022. Monsoon rains are expected over Bangladesh and over North Bay. The Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre warned that the floods could hit 14 districts in the northern region of Bangladesh in the next two days. EPA-EFE/MONIRUL ALAM

Bangladesh and India have experienced increasing extreme weather in recent years, causing large-scale damage. Environmentalists warn climate change could lead to more disasters, especially in low-lying and densely populated Bangladesh.

The worst-hit Sunamganj district is almost disconnected from the rest of the country, he told Reuters, adding that authorities helped by the army were focussed on rescuing those trapped and distributing relief.

“There is shortage of boats, which makes it harder to move people to safer places,” he said. “Today the navy is joining us in rescue efforts.”

Television footage showed Bangladesh roads and railway lines submerged, with people wading through chest-high brown churning waters, carrying their belongings and livestock.

Four people were killed and three injured after landslides struck their houses in the southeastern district of Chittagong early on Saturday, said local police official Wali Uddin Akbar.

Many of Bangladesh’s rivers had risen to dangerous levels, said Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan, head of the state-run Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre.

“As floods are still continuing it could be worse than the 2004 flooding,” he told Reuters, saying this was the third round of floods to hit the region in two months.

Syed Rafiqul Haque, a former lawmaker and ruling party politician in Sunamganj district, said a humanitarian crisis could emerge if the floods did not recede and proper rescue operations were not conducted.

“The situation is alarming,” he told Reuters. “There is no electricity, no road connection, no mobile network. People are in desperately in need of immediate shelter and food.”

In neighbouring India’s northeastern state of Assam, armed forces were called in for rescue efforts after landslides killed at least nine people and displaced 1.9 million from their homes in the last 10 days, officials said.

“Soldiers are helping police and civil authorities in several parts of Assam in evacuating trapped villagers,” Jogen Mohan, the state’s revenue minister, told Reuters.

Torrential rains lashed 25 of the state’s 33 districts for a sixth day.

“People have no contact with people. Especially Sunamganj has been without electricity for two days,” Alomgir Shahriar, a student of Dhaka University, told Reuters.

“I’m feeling so helpless. I am not able to contact with my family members when they are in such a terrible situation.”

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and William Mallard)

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