(AFP) – Rescue workers battled Wednesday to reach victims of landslides, described as the worst in Bangladesh’s history, as the death toll from the disaster rose to 152.
Villagers in some of the worst-hit areas used shovels to try to dig bodies out of the mud that engulfed their settlements as they slept.
Authorities say hundreds of homes were buried by mud and rubble sent cascading down hillsides after monsoon rains dumped 343 millimetres (13.5 inches) of water on the southeast of the country in just 24 hours.
Disaster Management Department chief Reaz Ahmed said the landslides were the worst in the country’s history and warned the death toll would rise as rescuers reached cut-off areas.
Khodeza Begum narrowly survived the disaster, which destroyed her home and killed 11 people in her village.
She told a local news website how she emerged from her home just after dawn on Tuesday to see the mountainside collapsing in front of her.
“As I came out, I saw a huge slab of earth rolling down from the hill. Instantly I got all my relatives out of their homes,” she said.
“My house was buried under mud within moments. I have never seen a disaster like this in my life.”
Firefighters in the worst-hit district of Rangamati recovered six more bodies on Wednesday after clearing mud with shovels and water pumps.
“The bodies were three to five feet deep in mud. We pumped water at a force to clear the mud,” said Didarul Alam, fire services chief for Rangamati district
The firefighters had pulled 18 people out from under the mud on Tuesday, but did not have the manpower to reach all the affected areas.
Alam said his team had been able to reach more areas on Wednesday after 60 reinforcements arrived from neighbouring Chittagong.
Authorities have opened 18 shelters in the worst-hit hill districts, where 4,500 people have been evacuated, a minister said.
– ‘Backlash effect’ –
The monsoon rains came two weeks after Cyclone Mora smashed into Bangladesh’s southeast, killing at least eight people and damaging tens of thousands of homes.
South Asia is frequently hit by flooding and landslides in the summer with the arrival of the annual monsoon rains.