Vol. 5 Num 112 Tue. September 14, 2004  
Front Page

Rain paralyses life

The unbroken spell of gusty winds and rains continued to lash Bangladesh for the third straight day yesterday, killing six people, swamping lowlands, shutting schools, offices and businesses and playing havoc with normal life.

The rains, riding on a land depression, sent most parts of Dhaka under knee- to waist-deep water, stranded hundreds of vehicles and thousands of commuters on roads, cut power and telephone links and kept day-workers from earning a living.

The meteorological office said the perils of rain, unheard of for years, will continue to hobble Bangladesh with a vengeance today as the depression was virtually stationary halfway between Faridpur and Dhaka. Weathermen said the situation will improve this evening after the low dies out.

The low that pelted Dhaka with 309 mm of rains in 24 hours until 6:00pm yesterday rekindled the horror of the worst monsoon flooding in 15 years that brought Bangladesh to its knees this year.

A 132-kv power gridline from Hasnabad to Kalyanpur tripped yesterday noon because of the wind and it could not be fixed until 7:45pm.

Of the six dead in Dhaka, four men and a woman were electrocuted in Nayapaltan, Sawari Ghat, Dayaganj and Konapara when they came in touch with torn electric wires. Another man was killed in a wall collapse in Rayerbazar.

All domestic and international flights from Zia International Airport (ZIA) were delayed for at least an hour because of the inclement weather.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authorities have cancelled launch services on 27 passenger routes from Barisal river port and on 13 routes from Patuakhali river port since Sunday afternoon.

Ferry services on many routes were suspended, stranding long lines of vehicles on highways.

The Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre said a rain-fed urban flood-like situation prevailed in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal, Faridpur, Comilla, Bhairab Bazar, Noakhali, Sitakundu and Feni because of torrential rains in the south, southeast and central regions.

Thousands of acres of rice paddies and other crops, hurriedly planted by farmers in the wake of the monsoon flooding, were damaged again. The rain also destroyed Aman paddies and seedbeds, killing farmers' hope of rebuilding life in the wake of the devastating floods.

Weathermen said the situation would improve this evening when the heavy clouds at the heart of the depression will drop to the ground as rain, weakening the low.

"The intensity will come down tomorrow (today). The land depression has already turned into a well marked low and remained stationary halfway between Faridpur and Dhaka. The more rain will occur, the weaker the low will be," said Arzumand Habib, deputy director of the meteorological department.

Children in most areas in Dhaka could not attend schools, most people remained indoors, office-goers faced serious difficulty and many went to office totally soaked.

The gusty winds uprooted trees in many places, blocking roads and causing traffic congestion.

A Biman flight from Kathmandu failed to land at ZIA at 5:30pm and landed in Chittagong, another Biman airliner scheduled to leave for Singapore at 9:00am yesterday was rescheduled for 7:30pm, a Malaysia Airlines flight scheduled for zero hours was rescheduled for 8:00am today.

The secretariat compound was also inundated. Power supply to the buildings housing top government offices remained snapped since 11:00am as rainwater swamped the power substation there.

Secretariat building No. 4 and several tin-roofed offices were also submerged. "I have seen water on the secretariat premises many times in my 25 years of job, but this time it is beyond imagination," said an elderly assistant with the Power Division.

Attendance to government and private offices was very thin.

"I entered my office wading through knee-deep water and found it reach my waist when I came out in the afternoon," said a bank official at Nayapaltan.

Waist-deep water submerged the VIP Road in front of the Prime Minister's Office and one to three feet swamped most city roads including Manik Mia Avenue, Bijoy Sharani, Darus Salam Road, Airport Road, Mirpur-1, Mirpur Road, Outer Circular Road, Bijoynagar and Abdul Ghani Road, giving them a river-like look.

The plight of passengers who got stranded on different roads, at bus stands and in passenger buses, CNG-run three-wheelers, taxicabs knew no bounds.

A few rickshaws and three-wheelers that braved the water charged many-time higher fares.

The submerged manholes or potholes on roads added to people's sufferings as wheels of rickshaws got caught in hidden traps and passengers fell into water.

Malibagh, Shantinagar, Motijheel, Khilgaon, Badda, Gulshan, Banani, Dhanmondi, Mirpur, Shukrabad and old Dhaka were the worst-hit areas in the capital.

Water entered the ground floors of many houses in the city and put slum-dwellers onto the streets, sending their shanties under three feet water in many places.

The overnight downpour forced trade suspension at the country's prime bourse Dhaka Stock Exchange. The incessant rain dampened banking activities, especially in Motijheel commercial heart where many ground floor bank branches went under water.

Shopping malls and other businesses were virtually deserted of shoppers.

About two feet water entered most residential halls of Dhaka University and only a few students, teachers and staff could be seen on the campus.

Prof Abul Khair, provost of Shahidullah hall, told The Daily Star that he had to evacuate his family from the submerged Provost's Bungalow.

The Dhaka Medical College Hospital morgue also went under water, stopping autopsies.

An official of the Flood Forecasting Centre said the central and southern regions would experience localised floods. He, however, turned down the probability of flashflood as major rivers flowed bellow danger marks.

Our correspondents from Barisal, Satkhira, Pabna, Sylhet, Chittagong, Khulna, Bandarban, Manikganj and Noakhali reported the similar stories.

They said many thatched and mud houses collapsed and flimsy houses were blown away. Blackout gripped many towns and villages because of knocked out power lines.

The rains also hobbled the search for about 20 people missing after a ferry sank on Sunday in the Jamuna river in Bogra in which at least seven people died.

A landslide also killed five members of a family in the southeastern port city of Chittagong, also on Sunday.

Incessant three-day rain wrecked havoc on capital's life with most city streets going under knee-to-waist-deep water yesterday. This picture taken at Arambagh tells the whole story. PHOTO: STAR