At least 32 dead and millions displaced amid historic monsoon flooding in Bangladesh


Dozens of people are dead, and millions of homes have flooded after days of monsoon downpours caused catastrophic flooding in Bangladesh, authorities said.

A wide swath of the country has been impacted by the disaster, forcing mass evacuations - up to 100,000 people in the hardest-hit areas - while millions have been left stranded, according to The Associated Press.

At least 32 people have been killed since the monsoon rains began late last week, Reuters reported. About 4 million people were marooned in the northeastern Sylhet administrative division in Bangladesh, which is about a quarter of its population.

"The flooding is the worst in 122 years in the Sylhet region," Atiqul Haque, director general of Bangladesh's Department of Disaster Management, told Reuters, adding that a dozen districts in the north and northeast had been swamped by floods.

Lightning strikes triggered by the storms killed about 20 people, including three children aged 12 to 14, police officials told The Guardian. And in the northeastern state of Assam, two policemen were swept away by floodwaters while conducting rescue operations on Sunday.

Assam state officials said about 200,000 people have been taken to makeshift shelters in 700 relief camps as all major rivers in Assam swelled well above danger levels, according to the AP. The Brahmaputra River, which runs nearly 800 km (500 miles) from Tibet and into Bangladesh and India, also overflowed, flooding millions of homes and cutting transport links.

Overall, nearly 6 million people have been displaced due to the floods, the news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) reported.

"There has been a persistent upper-level disturbance in the northern Bay of Bengal. This feature feeding on the extremely moist air flowing north into Bangladesh has resulted in rounds of heavy rains and thunderstorms and widespread flooding," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Bowers. "Chittagong Patenga (on the coast) has received 8.5 inches of rain in the last three days while Veat (further inland) has received 8 inches in the same time period and 17.8 inches so far this month or more than two-and-a-half times normal."

The flooding in this low-lying country worsened even further as water cascaded down the hills that surround part of Bangladesh from India's Meghalaya state, which has received 134% more rainfall than average so far this month, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Also, nearly 2.5 million acres (over 1 million hectares) of farmland have been flooded throughout the country.

The national Flood Forecasting and Warning Center warned on Sunday that flooding in some northeastern districts of Sunamganj and Sylhet could get worse. One of the major rivers in northern Bangladesh, the Teesta River, could rise above danger levels and deteriorate conditions further, according to the warning center.

“I am trying to save my belongings as much as I can. We don’t have the ability to do anymore now,” Muhit Ahmed, owner of a grocery shop in Sylhet, told the AP.

As major roads became flooded across the country, people became stranded, and soldiers were called in to help rescue people over the weekend.

Villagers in remote areas of the country have been struggling to get food and drinking water as access remains cut off. The military helped deliver food and other relief supplies to some flooded towns and villages in Bangladesh on Monday, according to Reuters.

"I have never seen such floods in my life. Dry food is running out. There is no drinking water," Khalilur Rahman, a resident of Sylhet's Sunamganj district, told Reuters.

Haque said rescue and relief operations have intensified and officials are reaching out to more people trapped in floodwaters. Bangladesh authorities are trying to deliver nearly 2,000 tons of rice and 58,000 packets of dry food to the communities impacted by the floods.

"We are intensifying our efforts providing relief materials. At the moment, the main challenge is to reach everyone and ensuring availability of drinking water," Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain, Sylhet division's chief administrator, told Reuters.

While flood waters have begun to recede a bit in the northeastern part of the country, there's still a threat for further flooding in the central region due to how the water flows south to the Bay of Bengal, warned officials.

Scientists have warned that flooding in Bangladesh has worsened over the years due to climate change, according to the AP. A United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change poll said about 17% of Bangladesh's population will need to be relocated over the next decade if global warming continues at its current rate.