Chittagong (AsiaNews) – According to the latest reports, at least 144 people have died in a series of landslides in the districts of Rangamati, Bandarban, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, southeastern Bangladesh.
The most affected area is Rangamati (103 dead), followed by Chittagong (33), and Bandarban (6). In Cox's Bazar, a man was buried along with his daughter. However, the toll is expected to rise given the impossibility for rescuers to reach many areas affected by violent monsoon rains.
"I'm really shocked,” Card Patrick D'Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka, told AsiaNews. “Most victims are tribals living in the hills. I am praying for those who lost loved ones. All my affection goes out to them."
Tonnes of mud and debris slid from the hills and swept away the homes they encountered on their path.
The districts affected by monsoon rains are hilly. Thousands of people have built their own homes on the slopes, often without little regard for urban planning.
The prelate believes that the natural disaster is also due to the effects of climate change. "People need to be more aware," he said.
In an appeal to "government, political parties, and non-governmental organisations,” he insisted that “They have to work for the victims. No one has to politicise the landslide tragedy."
Card D'Rozario announced that Caritas would also be involved in rescue operations.
For their part, NGOs and local officials said that they had asked local residents to leave their homes in areas at risk. But many chose instead to stay, probably because they had nowhere else to go.
Several rescue teams have been deployed to the area. Four soldiers were killed, hit by a mud flow as they cleared a road blocked by a landslide.
In addition to the tragedy of losing loved ones, residents now have to face shortages of food, electricity, and essential goods.
This is the case of Shopon Barua, a Buddhist in Bandarban, who lost his three daughters in the landslide. He said that the mud hit the house when the whole family was asleep. He and his wife got up to stop the water flowing down the hill, but part of the house came down, burying the girls. Now he is desperate.
Father Dominic Sarkar, parish priest in Bandarban, reported the death of "Rara Tripura, a Catholic of just 18," and the injuring of "at least ten other Christians." His parish is located in a remote area and rains have made the situation even more tragic.
"Communication links to other districts have been cut,” he said. “Many people are still missing. We need help for the poor because those who live on the hills are really in need."