Flash Floods Kill Two, Intensify Suffering in Rohingya Camps

By Muktadir Rashid   10 July 2019

DHAKA—Flash floods and monsoon rains have intensified the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas living in refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, displacing 2,700, damaging 3,400 homes and killing at least two, according to NGOs working in the area.

The Bangladesh government and local and international agencies are keeping volunteers on standby, fearing landslides in the densely populated neighborhoods.

Local authorities so far have recorded two deaths, including one child, during the ongoing monsoon rains.

Camp-in-charge Shamimul Hoque Pavel told reporters a 5-year-old boy drowned last Thursday, July 4, while playing around a flash-flooded area in Kutupalang camp.

Additionally, Mostafa Khatun, 60, reportedly died from injuries sustained after heavy rains caused a structural wall inside Kutupalang Camp 2 to fall on her at about 9:30 a.m. on Friday, July 5.

Pavel said community volunteers were kept on standby over the weekend in case landslides—common at this time in the nearby hill areas—should occur. He said the monsoon has led to water standing stagnant for five to six hours inside makeshift shelters in lowland areas.

District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Md. Masum Kabir Nazrul Islam said that, last Friday, 57 shelters were completely destroyed and 651 others were partially damaged in 33 Rohingya camps due to landslides, flash-floods and windstorms, affecting 737 families.

Rohingya community leader Mohammed Ali of Thyangkhali told reporters 181 makeshift houses were partly damaged due to heavy winds and rains over the weekend while four were completely destroyed.

He said affected families have been shifted to safer structures nearby and provided with meals. Shofi Ullah, a Rohingya leader in Balukhali camp, said the monsoon rains caused have caused trouble there.

“We are facing trouble due to continued downpours as a large number of shelters are being affected … But it is okay, we have not experienced any serious type of calamities so far,” he said.

Ayat Ullah, a Rohingya at camp 9, said they were worried about landslide and rains in the nighttime.

“We remain vigilant in the day time when it is raining but we are tense at night during downpours,” he said.

An estimated 350 mm of rain fell in 72 hours from Monday and more heavy downpours are expected throughout next week, according to a press release from the International Organization for Migration, with four months of the monsoon season still to go.

The Bangladesh Metrological Department reported on Wednesday that due to active monsoons over the area, heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely to occur throughout Chattagram Division, which includes the camps.

The deparment also said that, over the 24 hours following 10 a.m. on Wednesday, very heavy rainfall is likely to create more landslides.

According to documents from Oxfam dated June 19, 2018, monsoon rains in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar caused over 130 landslides and damaged 3,300 shelters last year, affecting 28,000 people.

Meanwhile, Cox’s Bazar police authorities recovered six bodies on the beach of Seagull Point on Wednesday morning.

Police suspected that the victims might be fishermen that drowned after their trawler capsized in the Bay of Bengal, said the district police additional superintendent, Iqbal Hossain.

He told The Irrawaddy that they came to know a number of fishing boats carrying about 30 fishermen went missing from Charfasion in Bhola on Saturday and wondered whether the victims of Cox’s Bazar were the same.

“We are sending photographs of today’s victims to our officials in Bhola district,” he said.

The police also rescued two people in an unconscious state and rushed them to Cox’s Bazar district hospital.

Four of the bodies were found around 3 a.m. while two were found at about 9 a.m., the officials said.

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