Flood in Bangladesh 2017: Misery mounts in north; Dhaka at flood risk
12:00 AM, August 17, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:20 PM, August 20, 2017

Misery mounts in north; Dhaka at flood risk

At least 39 killed so far; some 20 northern, central districts affected

The village of Khidramatia in Belkuchi upazila, once a vibrant community with around 200 homes, now stands utterly deserted. Rising water levels have submerged the entirety of the Sirajganj village and residents have long since left behind the desolation.   

Hatem Ali, 50, along with nine members of his family in tow, was wading along with what seemed like their most important belongings. 

"The Jamuna has taken a turn for the worse in the last few days and my house is now under water. So we are moving to our in laws' house," Hatem said, when approached by this correspondent. “On Saturday, flood waters reached near our knees. Now, they have risen near chest-high so we had to leave,” he added.

For days, the family subsisted on a diet of puffed rice as they could no longer cook in the flooded conditions. They will now travel almost 40 kilometres to reach his in-laws house in Sirajganj Sadar upazila.

Elsewhere, in Mokimpur village, Shathi Begum was going with her husband to their relatives' house. 

“On Tuesday noon, I saw the flood waters rushing with such strong current that it washed away our furniture. I tried to stay and fight the water but it is no longer possible,” she said.

While many have opted to seek safety in an acquaintance's house, for some even that is not an option.  Visiting different flood affected areas in Sirajganj, many people were seen taking shelter in makeshift tents on the highway. 

Talking to The Daily Star, Sayed Hasan Imam, executive engineer of Sirajagnj Water Development Board said the Jamuna water has been increasing rapidly in the last four days. The water may continue to increase for a few days, he said.

While the north remains severely affected by the flood, the rising water levels are threatening Dhaka district as well. Sazzad Hossain, executive engineer, Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC), mentioned that the rivers around Dhaka are slowly going above the danger level.

“The water level in Tongi khal is currently at 5.46 m with the danger level considered to be 6.8m,” he said.  “The other point of danger is the Turag river, near Mirpur. Currently the water level there stands at 5.14m with the danger level at 5.94m, with a mere 80 cm preventing it from flooding,” he added.  The Balu river on Demra currently has a water level of 5.09m, closing in on the danger level of 5.75m, he further mentioned. 

“We predict that the danger level may be crossed on the 20th or 21st of the month,” he said.

In the areas already affected by the flood, the loss of homes and properties isn't the most tragic tale. A total of nine people, four in Dinajpur, three in Jamalpur and two in Kishoreganj, died yesterday in the floods. The total death toll has reached an alarming 39 in the last four days, said the director general of the Disaster Management Department.  

To meet the crisis, the government has cancelled holidays of all medical officers in the flood affected areas and also deployed more army personnel as the situation has deteriorated in the northern parts. 

People wade through flood water on Jamalpur-Madarganj road submerged at four places and closed to traffic since Tuesday afternoon. The photo was taken yesterday. Photo: ABM Aminul Islam

A platoon of soldiers was sent to Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Panchagarh districts with essential life- saving equipment, said a press release of Inter-Services Public Relations yesterday.

As the water cascades down from upstream, people in the central part of the country are also suffering. The rapid rise in Jamuna's water level has added to the tribulations of the people from Jamalpur, Sirajganj,Tangail,   Manikganj, Munshiganj and Faridpur area.

Like Sirajganj, the overall flood situation in Tangail, Maninkganj, Faridpur and Munshiganj has also deteriorated.

In Faridpur, 146 villages have gone under water within a day as the water level of the Padma is currently above the danger level. In Manikganj, different places on the banks of the river Jamuna along with croplands have gone under water. 

On a hopeful note, our correspondents report, that the water level of the Teesta and Dharla rivers have gone below the danger level and that the water has started to recede in Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Dinajpur and Kurigram except low lying areas.

Though the situation is improving, the lack of pure drinking water is only adding to the worries. Standing crops and vegetables have been damaged and thousands of educational institutions remain shut either because they were hit by the floods or are now functioning as shelters. 

Visiting different flood shelters our correspondents report, most of the victims have not got any relief materials.

“I got a quarter kilogram of flattened rice (Chira) as relief in last four days”, alleged Jyoti Bala Roy, 62, of Maljhar village, who took shelter at Maljhar Government Primary School under Biral upazila of Dinajpur on Saturday when her village flooded.

Like her, many flood affected people of Biral upazila of Dinajpur are still without access to government relief.   

Reaz Rahman, director general, Bangladesh Department of Disaster Management said, so far  16 lac people were affected in 20 districts due to the flood.

They have distributed total 4.5 metric tons of rice and Tk 1.5 crore in those affected districts, he added.

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