The couple and their three children huddled together inside their hut as it rained hard all day and night on Monday. The parents left their kids' side early yesterday to clean up the mess of washed-away mud, and then suddenly a large chunk of earth came crashing down on them.
Moments later when people living nearby dug the family out, Swapan, still reeling from the shock, saw his children sound asleep as they were before the mudslide.
But soon, as it dawned on the parents that their little angels were no more, they burst into wails of grief. They ranted about how they could have saved their children.
“Why didn't we just leave our house when the rain didn't stop?” Swapan's wife Sumi sobbed.
The family was living on a hill slope at Lamujiri Para under Sadar upazila of Bandarban.
Ten-year-old Setu was the eldest child, and the other two were two-and-a-half-year-old Lata and seven-year-old Hridoy.
Without them, “how we will live now,” the mother cried out.
Swapan, who grows crops on others' land for a living, and his family had been living in the area for the last three years, said Sumon Barua, a neighbour and one of those who went to the rescue of the family after the incident.
“We were cleaning mud around 2:30am…. All of my children died on the spot [as earth fell on them]. I couldn't save them,” Swapan said.
Like his family, some 50 more families have been living at risk on hill slopes in the area, said Paimra Marma, a ward member of Lamujiri, at the place of the incident.
A huge number of mud and thatched houses have been built by cutting hills at Kalaghata, Lungi Para, Sikdar Para and New Gulshan in Bandarban, and on both sides of the Chittagong-Bandarban road, which are very risky in the rainy season.
Neither the district administration nor Bandarban Hill District Council has taken any measure to rehabilitate the families vulnerable to mudslides, local people said.
Sufia Khatun has been living in such a thatched house at Banorupa para.
She said her family could not afford a better house and so they were forced to live at risk. “No one cares about our future.”
The district administration has so far taken no visible step to prevent people from building houses on hill slopes. It has not even taken action against the land grabbers who are building houses by cutting hills, according to sources in the district administration.
Dilip Kumar Banik, deputy commissioner of Bandarban, said people living at the foot of the hills were asked to leave the areas yesterday and that Bandarban Disaster Management Committee would convene an emergency meeting today to discuss the matter.
Around 60,000 people in the hill district are vulnerable to landslides during rains due to massive hill cutting and building houses on hill slopes, thanks to the negligence of the authorities and their indifference towards law enforcement, according to sources.
Every year, landslides kill many people in the district. In 2012, a similar incident left at least 27 people killed in remote Faitong area under Lama upazila, and in 2015, nine people including five of a family were killed in remote Lama upazila and Bandarban town area.