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Five of a family killed in Chittagong landslide, four rescued

  • Published at 10:13 am July 21st, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:05 am July 22nd, 2017
Five of a family killed in Chittagong landslide, four rescued
Five members of a family have been killed in a landslide in remote hilly area of Chittagong’s Sitakunda upazila. The deceased are Bibi Fatima, 35, her son Md Yunus, 10; Rabeya, 26, and her daughter Samiya, 7 and Lamiya, 2. Four persons were pulled out alive. Fatema’s husband Rafique, 50, two daughters- Jannatul Ferdous, 12 and Salma, 11 and Rafique’s younger brother Giashuddin. Rafique’s younger sister Rabeya along with her children came to his brother’s to stay with his brother. Assistant Commissioner (land) Sitakunda Ruhul Amin told the Dhaka Tribune that the incident, which took place at the Jongol Salimpur area around 4am on Friday, also left several others injured. Md Alauddin Saberi, vice chairman of Sitakunda, said the situation had been aggravated due to illegal hill-cutting and illegal settlement on the government land. He said landless people from different parts of Bangladesh settled in the area with the help of land grabbers, adding that the place was vulnerable to landslides. Currently there are more than 20,000 people living in the area. Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Nazmul Islam Bhuyian said the bodies have been recovered. The incident took place when a huge chunk of earth fell on their house after a night long rainfall, Nazmul added. Six fire service vehicles have rushed to the spot to conduct a rescue operation. Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Zillur Rahman Chowdhury urged the settlers living in the area to move to safer locations to avert further landslide related casualties.

How the landslide happened

According toNazmul Islam Bhuyian, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Sitakunda, it was thenightlong incessant rain which triggered the landslide. “We requested the residents of the area to move to safer places to avert any possible landslide. However, the warnings went unheeded,” said the UNO. According to the Chittagong Patenga Met Office, 108 mm rainfall was recorded in the last 24-hour till 3pm yesterday (Friday). Recounting the landslide, Jannat, Rafique’s daughter who narrowly escaped the tragic incident, said: “All on a sudden a huge chunk of mud collapsed on our house. I cried out for help and the neighbours rescued me.” A brick kiln worker by profession and a resident of Noakhali district, Rafique came to the remote hilly area and erected the house two years ago. [caption id="attachment_100083" align="aligncenter" width="800"]From left, Salma, Jannatul Ferdous and Sumon, who were rescued from a landslide in the Jongol Salimpur area of Sitakunda upazila in Chittagong that left five, including three children, dead on early Friday, July 21, 2017 Rabin Chowdhury From left, Salma, Jannatul Ferdous and Sumon, who were rescued from a landslide in the Jongol Salimpur area of Sitakunda upazila in Chittagong that left five, including three children, dead on early Friday, July 21, 2017 Rabin Chowdhury[/caption]  

Razed hills collapsed

Although Salimpur union is located under Sitakunda upazila of the district, Shershah Banglabazar of the city is the main entrance to the accident spot. The area is full of wobbly dwelling houses constructed at the pockets, peaks, ravines, flanks and slopes by cutting, leveling and razing hills. Rafique built his three-room house by cutting hills. A 40-ft stair of sand bags was made to reach the rickety house.

How human settlement developed at Jongol Salimpur

During 1990s, the remote hilly area of Jongol Salimpur was inaccessible due to dense forest and hills. The area witnessed a huge influx of people back in 2004. Encroacher blessed with political influence constructed the houses by grabbing government land under the name of ‘Chittagong City Rootless Slum Dwellers Coordination Struggle Association’. The encroacher later rented out to the people from low-income background. Currently there are more than 20,000 people living in the area. Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Gazi Md Sadequr Rahman, president of Chittagong City Chittagong City Rootless Slum Dwellers Coordination Struggle Association, said that scores of landless people have been living in the area. “The poor have nowhere to go. The roads, educational institutes, religious establishments have been at the cost of the people. The government should rehabilitate us,” said Rahman. Md Alauddin Saberi, vice chairman of Sitakunda upazila told the Dhaka Tribune that mindless hill cutting under the full view of the authorities concerned for constructing settlement on the government land triggered the mudslide. “Landless people hailing from different parts of the country like Feni, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Barisal, Borguna, Rangpur settled in the area which is highly vulnerable to landslides,” said the vice chairman.

Illegal utility connections

The Dhaka Tribune saw that the dwellers of the area managed to get illegal power connections with the help of dishonest officials of Bangladesh Power Development Board. Electric poles were also spotted during the visit to the area. Although the people were living on the government land illegally, almost every household has an electric meter. Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Md Selim claimed that they got electricity connections legally as they were given electric meter and paid bills for consuming power.

What the DC said

Talking to the reporters at the spot of the accident, Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Zillur Rahman Chowdhury, said: “All of you know how  human settlement developed here. The way the human settlement developed on the government land is not acceptable. The resident must leave this vulnerable place. All of us should come forward to make the place free from the risk of landslides.”
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