Landslides kill 15 amid downpour
At least 15 people were killed in landslides in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar amid heavy downpour yesterday, with much of the port city going under knee-deep to waist-deep water.
Eleven of the victims -- five of them children aged between two and 12 -- died in separate landslides in different parts of Chittagong. In Cox's Bazar, four persons were killed as large chunks of earth fell on their hillside homes in different areas of Maheshkhali upazila, police said.
Several people in the port city were reported missing following a number of avalanches at Uttar Pahartali and Banshkhali areas.
All domestic and international flight operations to and from Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport were declared suspended at 4:30pm as the runway was inundated.
Train services on the Dhaka-Chittagong route were cut off as a railway bridge at Bhatiari collapsed around 8:00pm, presumably due to the downpour.
As the monsoon torrent kept lakhs of people stranded at home throughout the day since early morning, business in the country's commercial capital came to a near halt.
With most of the areas of the city submerged, at least 11 areas experienced total power blackout for about 12 hours since 8:00am. Power connection was restored in some of the areas after 8:30pm.
The Power Development Board snapped the connections fearing accidents resulting from short circuits, said Md Moniruzzaman, public relations officer of Chittagong PDB.
The areas that suffered power cuts include Halishahar, Pahartali, Khulshi, Bakalia, Asadganj, Pathorghata, Sugondha, Chawkbazar, Bahaddarhat and parts of Reazuddin Bazar.
Water logging is a problem that recurs in Chittagong almost every year. It has been more so in the last four to five years.
City people and town planners blame the Chittagong City Corporation and other city authorities for not doing enough to put in place a better drainage and water management system.
Beginning at around 3:30am, the downpour continued all day almost ceaselessly, causing immense sufferings to tens of thousands of people in Chittagong.
The exact number of the affected people could not be known.
Thick, filthy water swept through homes, businesses and other government and non-government institutions for hours, washing away scores of make-shift homes, shops and parts of other fragile establishments.
City life came to a standstill and businesses were badly affected.
The areas that went under knee-deep to waist-deep water include Panchlaish, Chawkbazar, Bakalia, Kapasgola, Bahaddarhat, CDA Avenue, Halishahar, Badurtala, Muradpur, Sholashahar, Mohammadpur, Agrabad, Chandgaon, Bayezid, Proborthak intersection, Medical college road, Chittagong College road, Katalganj, Khulshi, Kattali, Dewan Bazar, Chatteshwari Road, Sadar Ghat, Pathorghata, Khatunganj, Chaktai, Wireless area and Nasirabad area of Chittagong.
Loading and unloading of cargo at Chittagong port were greatly hampered. The rain also disrupted delivery of cargoes from the port to different destinations of the country, Syed Farhad Uddin, secretary of Chittagong Port Authority, told The Daily Star.
The city dwellers were mostly stranded at home. Those who dared to defy the rain found themselves in the middle of nowhere, as there was no transport except for a few rickshaws. Commuters had to walk to their destinations through the dirty water overflowing the drains.
Water was waist-high on some roads where movement of all types of engine-run vehicles remained suspended till the filling this report at 10:30pm.
Many in the affected areas were seen pumping rainwater out of their homes. Shawkat Iqbal of Bakalia area is one of them. He accused the CCC of not addressing the water logging problem.
Most businesses, including kitchen markets and grocery shops, did not open.
The miseries of several thousand slum dwellers at Bakalia were acute as the rain washed away everything they had, said CCC Councillor Zafar.
Attendance in schools and colleges was very thin as most students could not come out of their homes.
Tanima Chowdhury, a third year honours student of Haji Mohammad Mohsin College going to her classes on foot through knee-high water, said the CCC did not care about their sufferings.
The premises of many educational institutions, including West Bakalia Govt Primary School, Bangabandhu Govt Model Primary School, Kapasgola City Corporation Girls High School and College, Bakalia Govt High School, Bachelor of Education (B. Ed) College and Meron Sun School and College, went under water.
The Chittagong Met office recorded 342.5 millimetres of rain in the last 24 hours till 6:00pm yesterday, the highest rainfall this year. The Met office forecasts more shower in the next 24 hours.
In Cox's Bazar, 230 villages under eight upazilas were inundated, affecting about 3 lakh people. More than 800 mud houses were destroyed in those areas.
PORT AUTHORITIES BLAMED
City dwellers hold the CCC responsible for their recurring sufferings.
“Two years have passed since the Mayor took office. But we do not see any significant initiative taken by the city authorities to address the waterlogging problem," said Masud Ahmed of Panchlaish.
Dozens of others echoed his sentiment.
Asked, Bijoy Kumar Chowdhury, a councillor of the CCC, said the CCC alone could not solve the problem.
The job must be done in coordination with the Water and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) and the Chittagong Development Authority, added Bijoy, who is also chairman of the CCC's standing committee on waterlogging.
Mahbub Alam, senior vice-president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also stressed the need for coordination among the CCC, Wasa and CDA.
According to Zarina Hossain, a town planner, unplanned urbanisation is to blame for Chittagong's water stagnation.
Bijoy Chowdhury said the city authority had done a lot of work to address this problem but some major projects remained incomplete due to fund shortages.
“We have submitted a proposal regarding digging a canal in the port city from Bahaddarhat to the Karnaphuli River,” he said, adding that the proposal was under consideration of the local government ministry.
The seven-km canal will go through Khawza Road before falling into the Karnaphuli. Bijoy hoped that Chittagong's waterlogging problem would be solved to a great extent on completion of the Tk 297-crore project.
Meanwhile, the Chittagong district administration yesterday evacuated 400 people from their houses on the hill slopes at Biswa Colony in Chittagong to prevent deaths in landslides.
A team led by Additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue) Ismail Hossain also demolished 25 shanties illegally built on the slopes.
Last year, 17 people were killed in landslides in the port city. The number was 127 in 2007.