Unplanned accommodation for refugees in Cox’s Bazar, many of which are being built on the sides of hills, are at serious risk of landslides in the event of heavy rainfall or earthquakes, experts warn.
The 421,000 displaced Rohingya who have fled ethnic cleansing in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, are being housed in temporary shelters on the slopes of hills in Kutupalong, Balukhali and Palongkhali areas where a landslide may result in heavy casualties.
Cox’s Bazar district has seen a torrential downpour in the last few days, increasing the likelihood of flash floods and mudslides. Expertise in this sector said that if the rain continues for a few more days, the slopes may become unstable.
Experts said the Rohingya refugees are not used to living in the area and don’t know the terrain. The unplanned way in which government agencies are putting up makeshift shelters will compound the danger.
A visit to the Kutupalong area of Ukhiya on Wednesday revealed that thousands of temporary huts have already been built on the hillside. The monsoon rain has already caused flooding in the camps below the hills.
Experts said the rain-saturated soil may give in to the pressure of water if the rainfall intensifies and trigger a massive landslide. More than half of the 400,000 Rohingya refugees are living on the slopes of the hills.
Fire Service and Civil Defence Cox’s Bazar Station Manager Safayet Hosain told the Dhaka Tribune that several hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been housed on the hillsides in an unplanned way.
He expressed concern about the possibility of a major disaster caused by a landslide. He said that his agency does not have enough equipment and logistical support to tackle such a situation.
He said, however, that there was no alternative to housing the large numbers of Rohingya in these locations for now. “Where will you find room for 421,000 people?”
Myanmar’s military crackdown on its persecuted Rohingya minority has sparked a mass migration of more than 421,000 people into Bangladesh. Yangon has said that it is trying to quell an insurgency.
More than 100 hills are being used by the refugees for their temporary accommodation in Kutipalong, Palingkhali, Unchipara and other locations near the Bangladesh-Myanmar boarder.
The shelters were built so close together that there is no gap between shelter homes. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in coordination with the Deputy Commissioner’s office made many of the shelter centres, although refugees also made several shelters on their own using bamboo and tarpaulin.
A new analysis of satellite imagery from Myanmar’s Rakhine State shows 214 villages of Rohingyas almost totally destroyed, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Cox’s Bazar Assistant Deputy Commissioner and Executive Magistrate AKM Lutfor Rahman said around 420,000 Rohingya had taken refuge in Ukhiya Kutupalong, Palonkhali, Balukhali and other places in the district.
He said till Wednesday total 8500 refugee are enlisted by bio-metric registration.
He said, due to the monsoon, there is a risk of landslides.
He further said many refugee are erecting makeshift tents on their own on the hillside.
He said the army will take over the responsibility of coordinating the humanitarian response from today, after which there would be more discipline.
On Wednesday’s scenario was the same as previous days, when many local people joined the government and non-government organisations to distribute relief material.
Many Rohingya are suffering from disease including diarrhea and fever. Medical teams are trying to provide treatment although doctors say there aren’t sufficient resources.
New refugees also continue to enter Bangladesh from Myanmar at several points including Shah Porir Deep, although Myanmar leader Suu Kyi claimed in a speech on Tuesday that the violence had stopped.