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31 killed in Bangladesh by landslides and floods

At least 31 people were killed Thursday in landslides and flash floods in Bangladesh, officials said.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2003 09:56 IST

At least 31 people were killed on Thursday in landslides and flash floods in Bangladesh, officials said.

The victims were washed away by rushing waters or buried by landslides in several different places in the southeast of the country, which received 120 mm (4.8 inches) of rain in 24 hours, police and local administration officials said.

Two people died in the southeastern port city of Chittagong, five others in the nearby town of Mirarshari and 24 in the southeastern Khagrachari hill district.

Officials in Khagrachari feared the death toll might rise further as rescue teams were yet to reach remote areas.

"Troops have rescued many people but could not reach remote areas as landslides have blocked roads," army major Mohiuddin Ahmed told AFP by telephone from Khagrachari.

He said "the terrain is difficult and heavy rains continued to hammer the hill region" bordering India and Myanmar.

Local officials said a number of roads from Chittagong to the hill districts were closed because of landslides.

They said they were taking every measure to rescue people stranded by the flash floods and ensure a proper burial for the victims.

Earlier the Flood Forecasting Centre said heavy rains Thursday in the South Eastern Hill basin had triggered a "sharp rise" in the water level in several rivers, with some bursting their banks.

Calamity-prone Bangladesh has been hit by pre-monsoon squalls in the past week along with flash floods in northern and southeastern parts of the country.

At least 85 people have been killed in storms around Bangladesh since April, while a heatwave several weeks ago left another 62 dead.

Earlier Thursday the mass circulation Ittefaq newspaper said at least 53 Bangladeshi fishermen were killed when their boats capsized at the weekend amid rough weather in the Bay of Bengal, according to a survivor who clung to a raft for two days.

The 53 drowned when the five boats they were in sank on Sunday, a survivor named Badsha said.

Badsha, who is now in hospital in the coastal Barguna district, said he had survived by hanging onto a raft for two days until he was rescued by a passing vessel.

Fishing officials in Barguna, 173 kilometres (108 miles) south of Dhaka, could not confirm the figure.

"There are some missing and they might have drowned, but we cannot give the exact number now," one told AFP.

Original reports had said that nearly 90 fishermen were missing after the storms on Sunday. Around five have returned safely, but the fate of the rest is not known.

Bangladesh's four-month full monsoon starts in July when the average monthly rainfall varies from 1,194 to 3,454 millimeters (47 to 138 inches).

In 1988, three months of sustained flooding left several hundred people dead and caused millions of dollars in damage, prompting a global call to help Bangladesh develop a long-term flood protection system.

But in 1998, Bangladesh was again ravaged by the worst flood in a century leaving millions homeless and causing massive damage.

First Published: Jun 27, 2003 09:56 IST