Indian Catholic News

Bangladesh floods leave 20 dead, tens of thousands stranded

Churches and schools are being used as shelters for displaced people, as Caritas distributes relief aid.

People in Bangladesh wade along a highway submerged by floodwaters at Govindaganj in Dinajpur district. (Photo by Rafiqul Islam)

At least 26 people, including children, have died and tens of thousands have been left stranded by devastating floods in northern Bangladesh.

A rush of water from upstream India, and heavy monsoon rain, caused major rivers to overflow.

Khairul Alam, deputy commissioner of Dinajpur district, said there had been extensive damage to road and rail links with the capital Dhaka.

"We are using soldiers to evacuate people to flood shelters and to repair damaged river dams," he said. Aid including, dry food goods, was being distributed.

Also in Dinajpur, floodwaters have inundated Catholic Church properties, including the bishop's House, St. Francis Xavier's Cathedral Church and St. Philip's High School and College.

Pintu William Gomes, manager of disaster management at the Catholic charity Caritas, described the flooding as going from bad to worse.

"There are low-lying areas that get flooded every year, but this year comparatively higher areas have been seriously affected, which is a dangerous sign," he warned. "If this trend continues, it will be the worst flooding in 20 years."

Gomes said churches and schools were being used as shelters for displaced people. "And we have distributed aid worth 200,000 taka [US$2,470] from our reserve funds," Gomes added.

A situation report has been sent to donors. As well as providing immediate relief, funds provided would be allocated to post-flood rehabilitation projects, Gomes said.

Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury, Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, told reporters Aug. 14 that at least 600,000 people had been affected. "We fear the situation might worsen in coming days, but we are ready to respond to the disaster," Chowdhury said.

There is concern that at least nine districts in central Bangladesh, including Dhaka, could be inundated before floodwaters flow south into the Bay of Bengal.

The government has deployed emergency response teams and the distribution of relief supplies has begun.

"Over the past few days, we have distributed 1,200 metric tons of rice and 6 million taka to affected people," Chowdhury said. More aid would be provided as the situation required.

According to the European Union's Global Flood Awareness System, another 200 millimeters of rainfall is expected over the next 10 days in the southern region of the Himalayas. This has raised wider fears of major flooding in South Asia.

Source: UCAN

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