Landslide tragedies | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 29, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 29, 2012


Landslide tragedies

Coping strategy not yet in place

Since Tuesday's downpours and mudslides in the country's south eastern region, the body count has been rising by the day. The total number of deaths from Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Bandarban districts put together stands at 110.
Amid reports of more bodies being recovered, missing persons from affected families have added a fresh concern. It is a challenge for the rescue teams to track down the missing persons. A full scale human tragedy is unfolding.
Alongside the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts, the medical teams in operation will need also to help the victims traumatised by the sudden disaster to cope with the situation psychologically. It is worthwhile to note that this vital aspect of rehabilitating disaster victims was largely ignored in the past.
Now alongside the ongoing post-disaster damage control measures, there is the need to address the causes of the disaster.
After the most devastating landslide in the port city of Chittagong in 2007 that claimed 127 lives, a divisional Hill Management Committee (HMC) was formed. It prepared short-term and long-term plans with a number of recommendations to face such disasters. The tragedy bears testimony to the botched-up plans to contain this type of disaster.
Authorities concerned should have taken adequate measures to stop unbridled denudation of the hills including tree felling, hill-cutting and building human settlements along hill slopes as well as their bases. With the advent of rainy season, the inevitable has again happened as sliding earth from the eroded hill slopes came down on the settlements below.
The Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) mayor blamed Tuesday's disaster on water-logging, while the member secretary of the HMC attributed it to failure to rehabilitate people residing on hill slopes to the shelters they had advised to build earlier on.
We would urge the authorities concerned to shun the blame game, and start working with various agencies involved with the hill management committee to avert recurrence of mudslide-related tragedies in the future.

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