City drowns in record rain
A feeling of dread grips Masud Rana whenever he sees black clouds in Dhaka sky these days. The reason is obvious. A little rain means the same old story of misery, and it's hard to find a city dweller who doesn't share his fright.
Streets, lanes and by-lanes get submerged, public transports thin out and traffic stands still even after a moderate rainfall.
Yesterday, things were worse after about three hours of hard rain.
Between 12:00 noon and 3:00pm, the Met office recorded 121mm of rain in Dhaka, the highest rainfall in three hours since 2003 when the Dhaka Met office first started to record hour-wise rainfall, said Bazlur Rashid, a meteorologist there.
Since 2003, the highest rain in three hours before yesterday was 96mm in 2010.
"Heavy rain is normal this time of the year, but 121mm rain in such a short time is a record," Bazlur said about yesterday's downpour, adding that more rain was expected in the coming days.
As a result of such heavy rain, much of the capital quickly turned into a waterbody. On the waterlogged city streets, buses, private cars and three-wheelers came to a standstill for hours.
"I used to love rain. But now I've come to fear it because commuting on Dhaka streets after rain has become virtually impossible. This can't go on. I don't see any visible steps to solve the problem,” said Masud, who travels from Dhanmondi-27 to Gulshan-2 five days a week.
Experts have no new suggestions to offer. They say inadequate storm-water drainage system managed by seven different authorities with little coordination among themselves is the reason why Dhaka streets suffer deluge every time there is a moderate rain.
They do the job haphazardly and have little clue to what the other agencies are doing, they add.
In a well-managed network of storm drainage system, rainwater instantly runs into the low-lying retention areas. But, it takes hours for rainwater runoff if the network is faulty or destroyed, leading to immense public sufferings. As there was a heavy rainfall in a short time yesterday, things took a turn for the worse.
The worst-affected areas in the capital include Shantinagar, Khilgaon, Bashabo, Malibagh, Shantibagh, Rajarbagh, Mugda, Mohammadpur, Badda and different parts of Old Dhaka.
In the sunken city, almost all commuters had a similar story to tell.
Abdul Jalil, 60, got on a bus in front of the Jatiya Press Club around 2:30pm amid heavy rain. The bus took more than one and a half hours to reach Engineers Institute, around a kilometre from the Press Club. He sat still in the bus for half an hour more, all the while hoping that the bus would move.
"We were stranded like hostage. I felt so helpless. I could not get down even after the rain stopped as the road went under knee-deep water with filth floating," said Jalil, a private jobholder.
However, finding no alternative, he eventually started walking towards Farmgate where he works.
"Even the footpath went under water. It was a terrible situation," he added.
Having remained stuck in the traffic for hours, many walked miles to reach their destinations. A huge number of people were seen walking just by the central reservation as much of the Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue stretching from Karwan Bazar underpass to the first footbridge at Farmgate was inundated, forcing vehicles to move slowly.
In some places, fire servicemen were seen helping people cross water-clogged streets on towable tubes.
Brigadier General Ali Ahmed Khan, director general of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said they bought towable tubes for flood situation but now they deployed those in different areas of Dhaka and Chittagong for the service of people, especially the elderly, women and students, who got stuck in waterlogging.
Such tubes were deployed in Mirpur, Notre Dame College, Bangabhaban areas, he said.
Sanjida Khanam, a housewife from Sukrabad, had been facing severe problem to get her kids to school in Dhanmondi for the last two days.
"I had to struggle to get a rickshaw in the morning, but then got stuck in jam. It took me around an hour to reach the school," she said yesterday.
Maksud Reza, a banker, said he had to wait for around an hour to get on a bus after office hour.
"There were a handful of buses but those were crammed with passengers. It took me around three hours to reach my home in Kalabagan from Banani," he said.
Bishwajit Roy, a private service holder, said he had to walk for around one hour to go to Farmgate from Shantinagar as no rickshaw or CNG would take him due to waterlogging.
"On my way, I saw an elderly man falling into water while wading through near Karwan Bazar. He hurt his legs," he said.
Zina Tasreen, a resident of Mohakhali DOHS, said a large part of the posh neighbourhood went under knee-deep water on Wednesday noon.
"Residents parked their cars in dry parts of the area and away from their plots. To get to the cars, they have to hop on rickshaws to avoid the unclean water,” she said.