Bangladesh rescuers battle to reach landslide victims


Chittagong (Bangladesh) (AFP)

Rescue workers were Wednesday battling to reach remote areas of Bangladesh hit by landslides and heavy rains that have killed at least 137 people, with dozens more missing.

Authorities say hundreds of hillside homes were buried by landslides in the southeast of the country as people slept in the early hours of Tuesday.

The landslides were triggered by heavy monsoon rains, with 343 millimetres (13.5 inches) of rain falling on the area on Monday.

Firefighters in the worst-hit district of Rangamati said they had pulled 18 people out from under the mud on Tuesday, but hopes of finding more survivors were fading as the hours went by.

"People called us from several places saying people had been buried. But we did not have enough men to send," said Didarul Alam, fire services chief for Rangamati district.

"We have been unable to reach some of the more remote places due to the rain. Even in those places we have reached, we have been unable to recover all the bodies."

One survivor told how she and her family sought shelter at a neighbour's house after their own home collapsed, only to be hit by a second landslide.

"A few other families also took shelter there, but just after dawn a section of hill fell on the house. Six people are still missing," Khatiza Begum told a local news website from a hospital in Rangamati.

Rangamati district chief Manzurul Mannan told AFP 98 people had been killed there and 200 injured, some of them seriously, Another 15-20 people are still missing, he said.

Authorities have opened 18 shelters in the worst-hit hill districts, where 4,500 people have been evacuated, a minister said.

Among the victims were two fishermen who drowned after their trawler apparently capsized.

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.

More than 200 people were killed in Sri Lanka last month when the monsoon triggered landslides and the worst flooding the island has seen in well over a decade.