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Rohingyas in fear of landslides as monsoon hits

  • Published at 09:13 pm June 14th, 2018
  • Last updated at 09:14 pm June 14th, 2018
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A mudslide takes out a huge chunk of a road inside a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar Tarek Mahmud/Dhaka Tribune

Two Rohingyas have been killed and at least 10 others injured in mudslides since the monsoon started

Thousands of Rohingyas living in tents and makeshift houses on the hills and slopes are vulnerable to landslides as heavy monsoon rains batter the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar.

Over 200,000 refugees in the camps are still living in areas considered to be at high risk of flooding and landslides, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre, operating within the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department, said in its June 12 report. 

Twenty-five thousand refugees are at very high risk, the ERCC said.

Poor drainage system in Rohingya camps have added to the refugees’ woes Tarek Mahmud/Dhaka TribuneIt has reported 60 incidents of landslides, floods, and storms between June 9 and June 11 in which 855 shelters were damaged.

More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar security forces. They have taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar, a district bordering Myanmar.

The refugees have cut down trees and razed hills to set up temporary homes. Six days of heavy rains have made the topsoil of the hills fragile. The makeshift houses stretch over several thousand acres of hilly area. The roads have already become muddy, and some are inaccessible.

Monsoon and deforestation often trigger deadly landslides in Bangladesh that kill dozens every year. Landslides in the densely populated camps can be disastrous.

Ukhiya upazila administration said two Rohingyas have been killed and at least 10 others injured in mudslides since the monsoon started.

Rohingya youth, Md Rafiq, a volunteer working for the Rohingya camp management authorities, said he was worried about his family living in a makeshift shelter on a hill slope in Balukhali camp.

Another refugee, Kalam, said a landslide damaged his house on a hillside in the Shafiullah Ghata area of Balukhali camp on Wednesday.

“We have been hearing reports of landslides for the last couple of days and we are really scared,” he said.

In Myanmar, the Rohingyas said they always lived in fear of being attacked by the army and the Moghs. “In Bangladesh, our current worries are the rains, floods, and landslides,” said octogenarian Yusuf Mia, who hails from Maungdaw.

He lives at the Kutupalang extension camp where about 50 makeshift houses were damaged by landslides in the last five days.

A UNHCR report said the pathways and stairs have developed cracks or broken away, and hillsides have crumbled pounded by rain.

The International Organization for Migration said humanitarian agencies reported some 88 incidents of landslides and flash floods in the camps in just three days, affecting over 21,500 people back in May. They said the number would increase with the rains.

The IOM, in its latest report, said conditions in the camps are “further deteriorating as torrential rains that began on June 9 continue to trigger landslides and flooding.”

Refugee Rehabilitation and Relief Commissioner, Abul Kalam, said the government’s concerned bodies and humanitarian organizations are working round-the-clock to provide aid and secure infrastructure.