Bangladesh rescuers race to reach landslides victims

2017-06-14 16:40
Bangladeshi firefighters and residents search for bodies after a landslide in Bandarban. (Stringer, AFP)

Bangladeshi firefighters and residents search for bodies after a landslide in Bandarban. (Stringer, AFP)

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Dhaka - Rescue workers are battling to reach victims of the worst landslides ever to hit Bangladesh, as the death toll rose to 145 on Wednesday.

Television footage from some of the worst-hit areas showed villagers using shovels to try to dig bodies out of the mud that had engulfed their homes as they slept in the early hours of Tuesday.

Authorities said hundreds of hillside homes were buried by landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains in the southeast of the country on Monday.

The head of the Disaster Management Department Reaz Ahmed said the landslides were the worst in the country's history and warned the toll would rise as rescuers reached cut-off areas. Dozens were still missing.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by low manpower, bad weather and mud-swamped roads, officials said.

Army troops

"People called us from several places saying people had been buried. But we did not have enough men to send," said Didarul Alam, fire services chief for Rangamati district.

"We have been unable to reach some of the more remote places due to the rain. Even in those places we have reached, we have been unable to recover all the bodies."

Syeda Sarwar Jahan, a spokesperson for Chittagong's local government, said some 60 rescue workers got stuck en route to Rangamati on Tuesday when mud swamped the road ahead and behind them.

"Rescuers are struggling to clear the roads and restore traffic," she said.

The army said thousands of troops stationed in the affected districts as part of efforts to quell a long-running tribal insurgency had joined the rescue efforts.

The death toll included four soldiers who were trapped by a landslide after they joined rescue operation in Rangamti. Another is missing.

Fire-fighters in the worst-hit district of Rangamati said they had pulled 18 bodies out from under the mud on Tuesday.

One survivor told how she and her family sought shelter at a neighbour's house after their own home collapsed, only to be hit by a second landslide.

"A few other families also took shelter there, but just after dawn a section of hill fell on the house. Six people are still missing," Khatiza Begum told a local news website from a hospital in Rangamati.

Rangamati district chief Manzurul Mannan said that 98 people had been killed there and 200 injured, some of them seriously.

At least 36 people were killed in Chittagong and seven more in the neighbouring hill districts of Bandarban and Khagrachhari, officials said.

The latest toll makes this year's disaster deadlier even than a 2007 landslide that killed 127 people in Chittagong.

Read more on:    bangladesh

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