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Flooding devastates Chittagong in Bangladesh

At least 84 people were killed and hundreds more are injured or missing as torrential rains sparked a series of devastating landslides in Chittagong, plunging the country's second city into chaos.

Power supplies were snapped, the port and airport closed and residents sought safety on the roofs of their homes. Concern has received unconfirmed reports that family members of at least one Concern employee are among those who perished.

Inescapable flooding

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. Whole families were buried under mud and debris while they slept. The powerful current simply washed others away.

The rainfall, coupled with severe water logging, meant that 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.

Rescue and evacuation efforts

Police, army, fire-fighters 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 to the Cantonment Hospital with severe injuries, official sources said.

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

Jasim Uddin, supervisor of a factory in the 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 they were washed away."

Continuing rainfall

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, up until 3pm, the met office recorded a total of 227 millimetres of rainfall in 24 hours. The Chittagong airport has suspended operations until weather conditions improve.

Response to the floods

The emergency response by the government using joint forces and fire-fighters has been swift although ongoing rain has hampered rescue efforts. Local NGOs have been assisting with logistics in some of the rescue areas. Emergency supplies and dry rations have already been distributed to some of the affected families.

Concern, under the guidance of regional manager Bijoy Krishna Nath, is closely monitoring the situation and is attending emergency meetings alongside other NGOs at the District Commissioners Office. Concern is ready to respond to particular needs once they have been identified and requested by government authorities.