Vol. 5 Num 1077 Tue. June 12, 2007  
Front Page

Walls of mud turn Ctg into city of death
84 die as hills come crashing down after overnight rain; many swept away by current; port closed; no power supply; today's HSC exam in Ctg district postponed

At least 84 people were killed and hundreds more injured and missing as torrential rains sparked a series of devastating landslides in Chittagong , plunging the country's second city into chaos, with power supplies snapped, the port and airport closed and residents seeking safety on their roofs.

The heaviest rainfall in quarter of a century saturated the hillsides in and around the city giving residents no chance to escape when a tide of mud and water swept down on their homes in the early hours of yesterday morning, burying whole families under mud and debris while they slept. The powerful current simply washed others away.

The rainfall, coupled with severe water logging, meant that even by yesterday evening large areas of the city remained submerged with many residents taking shelter on roofs or the higher floors of buildings. Last night the met office forecast more rain.

Police, army, firefighter and volunteers struggled all day to find survivors, but the heavy rainfall, flooding and a lack of equipment hampered their efforts. People living near hills in and around the city were evacuated due to fears of further mudslides.

Chittagong district administration sources last night said the number of confirmed deaths had reached 84, but unofficial sources put the figure above 100. More than 60 injured people were admitted in the Cantonment Hospital with severe injuries, official sources said.

Chittagong Divisional Commissioner Mokhlesur Rahman said that all the examinations of HSC, Technical and Madrasa Board scheduled to be held today have been postponed for the students of Chittagong district.

The economic disruption was extensive with the country's largest port closed and the city's industries brought to a standstill. Shop owners, businesses and householders could do little to protect their property and possessions from the torrent of muddy water. Kalurghat Radio Station was forced to suspend its broadcasts as its headquarters were submerged.

Apart from the landslides the sheer power of the water took many lives in the city.

Md Jasim Uddin, supervisor of a factory at Nasirabad Industrial Area, saw a bus with eight young garment workers trapped inside floating near a large canal.

"The girls came out of the bus and tried to save themselves by holding whatever they could reach. Sensing the danger, a friend and me asked them to grab our hands. Five girls responded while three tried to grip a small wall. Suddenly, a strong wave loosened their grip and the they were washed away."

The met office said the monsoon, that officially began on Friday and is expected to last until mid-September, is unusually powerful at the moment due to the effects of a sea storm in the Bay of Bengal. In Chittagong the met office recorded a total of 227 mm of rainfall in the twenty-four hours till 3pm.

As many as twenty-three persons were killed in a landslide which hit houses at Lebu Bagan of Chittagong Cantonment under Hathazari upazila bordering the city, police said.

Eleven persons were killed when a wall collapsed on some thatched houses at Power Colony on railway land at Pahartali under Doublemooring thana.

The collapse of a huge chunk of earth on twelve-thatched houses at the bottom of a hill at Garbibullha Shah Mazar adjoining Kusumbug area left seven persons, including five children, dead at Lalkhan Bazar under the city's Khulshi thana.

Seven persons were buried alive in a landslide at Sekandar colony of Chittagong cantonment area under Hathazari upazila. Another landslide killed five persons of a slum at Taragate area under city's Bayezid police station.

Five member of a family were killed in a landslide that hit a tin shed house near the Shaheed Minar inside the campus of Chittagong University. Two were killed in landslide in Lalkhan Bazar Matijharna with two more people washed away in Panchlaish thana.

Mostafa Kamal, an official of Utsha a non-government organisation, said that he and his team were conducting rescue operations at 6:30 pm at Deverpar. "We had recovered eight bodies and rescued 19 injured persons from the debris. But the rescue operation is being hampered because of the torrential rainfall," he said.

"Eight houses at the foot of the hill were buried at 8:00 am. So far we have heard from the family members that at least 15 others are still buried under the debris," he added.

The rainfall knocked out seven power substations in the city although five of the substations were able to resume operations in the afternoon.

The government announced Tk 9 lakh and 200 metric tons of food grains to provide instant relief and support to the affected people, while the district administration distributed dry food.

UNB adds: A Biman flight carrying Communications Adviser Major General (retd) Abdul Matin from Dhaka could not land at Chittagong airport at 6:30pm yesterday due to bad weather and was compelled to return to the capital.

Gen Matin, representing Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, was supposed to visit the places of landslide and meet the bereaved families.

He was also scheduled to hold a meeting of the taskforce dealing with the disaster management and take on the spot decisions to mitigate the sufferings of the affected people.

However, the taskforce held a meeting at 7:30pm at the Circuit House with the Divisional Commissioner in the chair.

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FROM TOP... Law enforcers, firemen and locals join their efforts to rescue the injured and recover bodies at Kushumbagh in Chittagong city yesterday following a mudslide there. Wasa intersection in the city goes under almost knee-deep rainwater after heavy downpour. PHOTO: STAR