350 families evacuated from risky slopes, goods unloading at the port remains halted
Torrential rain on Monday submerged most of the low-lying areas of Chattogram city in knee- to waist-deep water on Monday leaving normal life in a complete halt.
Patenga Met Office recorded highest 260 millimetre rain at Ambagan under Khulshi Thana and 189 millimetre at Patenga in the last 24 hours until Monday 6pm.
Water entered low-lying residential houses, educational institutions and business firms leaving the people marooned.
Commuters, especially office-goers and students, were the worst victims of the rain due to lack of transports and heavy traffic gridlock on thoroughfares amid incessant rain.
Many roads of the port city, including those at Bahaddarhat, Muradpur, Gate No 2 GEC circle, WASA Circle and Lalkhan Bazar Agrabad, Halishahar, Patenga, Bakalia and Chawkbazar, came under serious waterlogging.
The situation for city residents was even complicated by flash floods when tidal water entered many low-lying areas, including Halishahar, Agrabad, Kattali, Bandartila, Goshaildanga, Saltgola Crossing, Chaktai, Khatunganj, Patenga and Bandar.
People were seen crossing roads by rickshaw or wading through the knee-deep water while drivers of motorised vehicles stopped plying the streets.
Due to the heavy rain, unloading goods from mother vessels at outer-anchorage of the Chattogram port was disrupted, although other operational activities at port jetties were normal.
“Due to heavy rain, we could not send lighter vessels to unload goods from mother vessels since Saturday. Over 450 light vessels are waiting to go to the outer anchorage at Karnaphuli River,” said Ataul Kabir Talukder Ranju, deputy secretary (operation) of Water Transport Cell.
Met office said heavy to very heavy rainfall has been forecasted for parts of Chattogram and Barishal divisions till Tuesday evening. They said the rainfall is likely to occur due to active monsoon over Bangladesh. The Patenga Met Office has been asked to hoist local cautionary signal number 3.
They also warned torrential rain could trigger landslides in the hilly region of Chattogram.
350 families moved to shelter centres
To avert casualties in possible landslides, the Chattogram district administration has already relocated around 350 families from risky hill slopes to safer places at temporary shelter centres.
They also went around with loudspeakers, telling people living on hill slopes to move to safer places.
The city authorities also opened eight temporary shelter centres, including Pahartali Girls’ High School, Firoz Shah E-Block School at Foy’s Lake, Chattogram Model High School at Polytechnic area, Jalalabad Bazar Shed, Al Heara Islamia Madrasa at Tankir Pahar area, Rofabad Adarsha High School, Lalkhan Bazar Government Primary School, and Syedabad School at Poda Colony area.
“Over 300 families have been evacuated from Jalalabad hill, Motijarna Tankir Phara hill and Modhu Shah Hill in the city since Sunday, amid fear of possible landslides due to rain,” said Md Delwar Hossain, member secretary of hill management committee and additional deputy commissioner (revenue).
He confirmed that the shelter centres have been kept ready with enough relief for the people.
“All the people living on risky hill slopes have to move to the shelter centres,” he added.
According to the city authorities, 17 hills have been identified where 835 low-income families live at present. To evict these illegal families, the district administration started a drive and demolished about 300 establishments from three hills since Wednesday.
Landslides triggered by heavy rains in and around Chattogram city have claimed over 250 lives between 1999 and 2014. The death toll includes the 127 who lost their lives in a single catastrophic landslide in 2007. The disasters took place in Lalkhan Bazar, Motijharna, Tankir Pahar, Batali Hill, Akber Shah and Pahartali areas of the port city.
The catastrophic landslide of 2007 that claimed 127 lives prompted formation of two committees. Their 36-point recommendation to avert possible loss of lives from landslides includes evacuating people from the risky areas and measures to rehabilitate them. However, most of these recommendations remain ignored.
Despite warnings of the government, the poor people are living on the slopes as politically influential people allegedly rented out the slums to them.