The flood situation in Sylhet and Sunamganj has turned more critical, inundating hundreds of new villages and areas in the two districts, including the Sylhet city.
Almost the whole city came under flood water yesterday, Saturday.
People in the northeastern region of Bangladesh have been suffering badly. Marooned by the massive flooding, thousands of people in the two districts are now facing a food and drinking water crisis.
“The situation in Sylhet region is dire. Many people don’t have enough food and pure drinking water. Our area in Sylhet city and other areas of the city and vast areas in the two districts are now under flood water. We have never seen such a flood before,” said Foyjul Jalal Foysol, a bank official; and Foyez Ahmed, a journalist; who live in the Raynagar area of Sylhet city.
According to government office sources, about 35 lakh people in the two districts have been affected by the flooding. “We are trying to rescue and take the flood-hit people to the shelter centres,” said Md Mosharrof Hossain, divisional commissioner of Sylhet.
The situation turned severe with rising water level in major rivers due to relentless downpour over the past week and onrush of hilly water from India.
The flood situation is deteriorating further at a time when people of Sylhet region are still reeling from the shock of the first round of flood that happened in May last.
The flooding has forced thousands of people to flee their homes, and are now struggling to survive after shifting to higher places and shelter centres.
According to the Flood Forecast and Warning Center (FFWC) of Bangladesh Water Development Board (WDB), the unprecedented flooding inundated 80 per cent area of Sylhet district and 90 per cent area of Sunamganj.
The flood situation may worsen further as water from heavy rain in Meghalaya and Assam of India flows downstream.
Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan, executive engineer of FFWC, said that this is the first time that 80 percent of Sylhet had gone under floodwater and the situation may turn worse further as he predicts heavy showers on Sunday and the days after.
The FFWC, however, warned that flood may hit 14 other districts. The water level of the rivers flowing over the districts has started rising, said Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan.
According to the FFWC, floodwater was entering the Brahmaputra basin through Kurigram and advancing further. As a result, water may enter Gaibandha, Jamalpur, Bogura, Tangail, Sirajganj, Manikganj and Pabna in the next few days. Kurigram, Lalmonirhat and Rangpur in the Teesta basin might also get flooded.
The water level in Sirajganj has already risen beyond the danger level. Kazipur point in the district was flowing 1cm above the danger level.
Besides, heavy rains have started upstream in the Padma which may increase further. As a result, floods may start in the lower areas of Shariatpur, Madaripur, Chandpur and Faridpur.
According to the FFWC, the water in Surma river was flowing 128 cm above danger level at Kanaighat point in Sylhet on Saturday, while 77cm at Sylhet point, 120 cm at Sunamganj point and the Sari River was flowing 67 cm above danger mark at the same time.
The water level of the Kurishara River has also increased and the Jadukata River in Sunamganj district was also flowing above danger level.
Meanwhile, the sufferings of flood-hit people in Sylhet region have mounted with suspension of power supply to the two districts. The Sylhet city along with the entire Sylhet and Sunamganj has been without electricity. As a result, the two districts have plunged into darkness.
The Kumargaon grid sub-station in Sylhet could not be kept in operation despite desperate efforts. As a result, power supply to Sylhet from the national grid line has been cut off. The floodwater entered Kumargaon grid power sub-station in Sylhet at about 12:15 pm on Saturday and the authorities suspended power supply to the two districts.
Water started flowing into the power plant on Friday morning. The authorities of Sylhet City Corporation and the Power Development Board (PDB) took initiative to reduce the water level by irrigating the area around the power plant. Later, members of the Bangladesh Army joined this work.
Till 12:30 pm on Friday, the Army personnel tried to build a dam around the power plant by throwing sand, soil and stone sacks. They also made the power plant safer by reducing irrigation water with pumps and suction machines.
But due to heavy rains from midnight on Friday, the water level has been rising since Saturday morning and floodwater entered there. As a result, power supply from Kumargaon grid sub-station was cut off.
Abdul Quadir, chief engineer of Sylhet PDB, said that efforts would be made to reopen the power plant if the rains reduced.
Meanwhile, the authorities have suspended the train movement in and out of Sylhet Railway Station as its platform went under flood water on Saturday. However, trains will run from Maizgaon Railway Station in Fenchuganj upazila, which is 20 km from Sylhet, said Md Nurul Islam, manager of the station.
Earlier, the flight operation from Sylhet MAG Osmani International Airport had also been suspended due to the massive flood.
Rail communication of Netrakona district with other parts of the country has also remained suspended since Saturday morning as a rail bridge collapsed in Mohonganj upazila of Netrakona district due to flood.
Golam Rabbani, station master of Barohatta Rail Station, said that the no 23 rail bridge between Mohonganj and Atitpur Rail Station collapsed due to strong current of floodwater.
Meanwhile, 39 unions of six upazilas of Netrakona district have been flooded due to onrush of hill water from upstream and heavy downpour in the district, rendering one lakh people marooned.
Alongside Sylhet and Sunamganj, the low-lying areas in Moulvibazar and Habiganj districts have also been flooded as major rivers keep rising.
Thousands of flood-hit people in the flood-hit areas in Sylhet and Sunamganj have been stranded in their respective houses as they failed to move to safer places due to lack of boats. However, many of their relatives cannot rescue the people due to excessive boat fare.
Boat fare which is usually Tk 100, is now being charged at even Tk 5,000. In some places, people are unable to find boats even after willing to pay the excessive amount.
The flood-affected people of Companiganj and Gowainghat upazilas of Sylhet and some upazilas in Sunamganj are suffering worst for boats. However, almost all the inhabitants of Gowainghat upazila have been affected by the floods, said Maulana Nesar Ahmed, principal of a local madrasa.
Farid Ahmed, a businessman from Sylhet, said that his driver’s family was in danger after being trapped in a village at Chhatak upazila of Sunamganj. Despite spending a lot of money to rescue them, he could not afford to rent a boat.They were later rescued by local volunteers and taken to a nearby shelter.
Sylhet DC Md Mujibur Rahman also said, “We are not getting the necessary number of boats to carry out the rescue operation even after paying some extra fare. We will look into the matter and take necessary action.”
Meanwhile, many residents of Sylhet city are making concrete walls with bricks and cement at entrances of their respective houses to keep out the flood water.
The flood also disrupted the network of different telecom operators, causing sufferings of people. The authorities concerned also disconnected gas supply in some flood-hit areas.
Local administrations have opened a number of shelter homes in the two districts which have become overcrowded. The inmates of the shelter homes are now crying for food and pure drinking water.
Faeeja Humaira Meem, an undergraduate student of English at Metropolitan University, said that she had never experienced such a situation before. According to her, Zindabazar, one of the busiest places in the city, was flooded on Saturday morning.
Floodwater also submerged the MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital in Sylhet due to continuous rain.
At around 12 noon, water started entering the ground floor in the hospital. Authorities were forced to cut off power supply to the hospital’s generator. The lack of electricity has disrupted the hospital’s surgical department and intensive care unit (ICU).
Director of the hospital Brigadier General Mahbubur Rahman Bhuiyan confirmed the matter. He said, “We have informed the higher authorities to bring the special generator of Sylhet City Corporation received from the Prime Minister to the hospital. At least the intensive care unit and the surgery department can be kept active.”
He added that 1,060 patients were admitted to the hospital till Saturday morning. That could escalate further. However, some patients have died due to water entering the hospital.
Against this backdrop, the Army joined the rescue operation and launched a toll-free flood helpline for Sylhet and Sunamganj. Nine units of the Bangladesh Army are continuing rescue operations in Sylhet and Sunamganj.
The Army personnel are involved in taking the flood-hit people to the nearest shelter homes, said Major General Hamidul Haque of Sylhet Cantonment.
A 35-member team of Bangladesh Navy has joined the Army in the rescue operation in the flood-hit areas at Jalalabad union of Sylhet Sadar upazila, said Md Mujibur Rahman, deputy commissioner (DC) of Sylhet.
Another 60-member team of Navy, two teams of Coast Guard and two helicopters of Bangladesh Air Force also joined the team.
However, the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) has asked the authorities of all schools and colleges in the flood-affected areas to get their establishments ready for sheltering people.