Mud­slides kill at least 140 in Bangladesh

Hun­dreds of res­cuers search for vic­tims in re­mote vil­lages. ‘The dev­as­ta­tion is huge.’

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Res­cuers went door to door search­ing for in­for­ma­tion on peo­ple who might be miss­ing Wed­nes­day af­ter mas­sive land­slides crashed onto vil­lages and killed at least 140 in south­east­ern Bangladesh, of­fi­cials said.

With some roads col­lapsed and oth­ers blocked by mud, sol­diers were erect­ing a por­ta­ble bridge to reach the worst-hit district of Ranga­mati, where gov­ern­ment shel­ters housed about half of the 4,500 peo­ple whose homes were swamped by mud and de­bris un­leashed by the land­slides Tues­day.

“The dev­as­ta­tion is huge,” said Shah Ka­mal, sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of Disas­ter Man­age­ment. He said it could take days be­fore ac­cess to the area is fully re­stored. With power cut off in the re­gion, in­for­ma­tion was slow to trickle out.

Res­cuers were us­ing boats to reach some ar­eas where roads were cut off.

Else­where, vil­lagers joined fire­fight­ers and sol­diers in cut­ting fallen trees and clear­ing de­bris in re­mote ar­eas where res­cuers have been un­able to get heavy ma­chin­ery, mil­i­tary spokesman Rezaul Karim said.

The in­jured were be­ing taken to hos­pi­tals where doc­tors worked by can­dle­light.

Hun­dreds of res­cuers — in­clud­ing sol­diers, fire­fight­ers, po­lice and vol­un­teers — were still dig­ging through vast piles of mud in search of bod­ies. Author­i­ties would not say how many peo­ple might still be miss­ing.

One vil­lager de­scribed sur­viv­ing a land­slide that killed his three chil­dren as they slept early Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per Prothom Alo.

Swa­pan Barua said he was try­ing to clear rain­wa­ter from his thatched-roof home when huge chunks of mud swept down, bury­ing the chil­dren in their beds.

Four sol­diers died when a mud­slide smashed into them while they were clear­ing a road in Ranga­mati on Tues­day, army of­fi­cial Mo­hammed Red­wan said.

Of­fi­cials re­ported 103 dead and at least 5,000 homes de­stroyed or dam­aged in Ranga­mati, where mostly tribal vil­lagers live in small com­mu­ni­ties near a lake sur­rounded by hills.

An ad­di­tional 28 were killed in the coastal Chit­tagong district. Six died in Ban­dar­ban, two in Cox’s Bazar and one in Kha­grach­hari.

The delta na­tion of Bangladesh is fre­quently hit by strong storms, flood­ing and land­slides. Ex­perts said this week’s tragedy was also the re­sult of un­con­trolled de­nud­ing and soil har­vest­ing on hills above un­planned set­tle­ments.

Many peo­ple in hilly re­gions ig­nore author­i­ties’ calls to avoid con­struct­ing homes on slopes.

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