CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Rohingya in Bangladesh brace for devastating monsoon floods

DHAKA (UCAN): The government and aid groups in Bangladesh are preparing for disastrous flooding in the upcoming monsoon season which weather forecasters have warned will arrive early at the end of May. It usually starts in June and lasts until August.
 
Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury, minister of the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry, told journalists that disaster preparations are in place.
 
“We are prepared early for any kind of disaster including flooding, heavy rain, landslide and deaths in lightning strikes. Local government offices in every district have been advised to stay alert for any emergency,” Chowdhury said.
 
During an emergency meeting in Dhaka on May 1, the ministry determined action plans to tackle flooding and landslides. 
 
The meeting also covered the situation of nearly one million Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh.
 
“Out of about 1.1 million Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh, about 200,000 living in risky areas prone to flooding and landslides are being evacuated to safe areas. The military and navy have been advised to remain ready for an emergency response,” Chowdhury added.
 
Shah Kamal, secretary of the ministry, said that 100,000 Rohingya have already been moved to safer ground and the rest are being evacuated.
 
Heavy rain is expected to overflow major rivers that could cause flooding in 37 out of 64 districts in the low-lying country, according to the state-run Meteorological Department.
 
“Analysing data of rainfall over the past few years and a gradual change in the weather pattern, we have reasons to believe the monsoon this year is likely to be more devastating,” Ujjal Kanti Pal, an officer from the department, said.
 
Warning signs have been visible since April 14, as seasonal storms caused flooding in urban and rural areas. 
 
Major cities recorded heavy rainfall from April 28 to 30, with capital, Dhaka, enduring an unprecedented 146 millimetres of rain from April 28 to 29. 
 
Pintu William Gomes, senior manager of disaster management at Caritas, said preparations are in place to tackle emergencies that also cover refugees.
 
“Bangladesh has greatly improved its disaster warning system. Early preparation by the government is welcome, and we have plans to collaborate with them,” Gomes said. 
 
At least 70 people have been killed in lightning strikes this year, mostly in rural areas, local media reported. Lightning killed 380 in 2016 and 307 in 2007, according to the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry.
 
Landslides during last year’s monsoon killed 166, mostly indigenous people in southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts.
 
All districts were allocated 200 metric tonnes of rice, corrugated iron sheets and 500,000 Bangladeshi taka ($46,800) for primary stage disaster response.

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