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Hundreds of thousands suffer in Bangladesh floods

Heavy monsoon downpours have led to breaches in several of Bangladesh’s major rivers, causing many hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and affecting over a million people.

Nine of the country’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre stations have also reported dangerous water levels in their areas. With poor river management and increasing amounts of silt, further flooding could occur.

So far, the worst-affected areas are coastal regions in the south, especially the Satkhira and Khulna districts in the southwest. The charity Christian Aid is active here and says 700,000 people have left their homes. Many are staying in schools or cyclone shelters after what is being described as the worst flooding in eight years. A spokesman for Christian Aid said that getting food to those in need would be a priority. Many farmers have lost not only their current rice crop, but seeds for the winter harvest. Stocks in fish and shrimp farms have also been lost. And in Khulna district, one of Bangladesh’s main regions for growing vegetables, produce and nursery seedlings have been destroyed. 

The current focus of charities in the area is on emergency supplies and boats are being used to reach communities inaccessible by road. Food, shelter and hygiene kits are being distributed, as well as soap, drinking water and purification tablets. These are needed because boreholes and other water sources have been contaminated by the flood waters. An official from the Red Crescent Society Bangladesh warned that water-borne diseases were likely to form “the biggest health risk” over the coming weeks.

The country’s Disaster Management Bureau said that the government had begun relief efforts to hand out over 6,000 tons of rice. A fund of 120,000 US dollars and an additional 53,000 dollars were also earmarked to help victims. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been distributing high-energy biscuits to around 60,000 people in the Satkhira district. WFP organisers are particularly concerned about some of the people here. Many families had only just begun to recover from the effects of Cyclone Aila, which brought destruction to hundreds of thousands of houses and over 125,000 hectares of farmland in 2009.

IRIN spoke to one woman in the Satkhira district. Amena Khatun told the news agency that the floods meant all her son’s three acres of rice were now “under water”. Without any assistance, she said her family would starve. Looking at the lake which is normally her family’s field, Amena summed up the feelings of many in the area - “the flood has washed away all our happiness”. 

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