Bangladesh monsoon floods leave 73 dead, five million affected: officials
DHAKA (AFP) Jul 18, 2003
At least 73 people have died and more than five million have been affected by monsoon floods in Bangladesh but officials said Friday that water levels could subside in the next few days.

Official figures released by the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry in Dhaka late Thursday said there had been 73 confirmed flood-related deaths since the beginning of June in 18 northern, western and central districts, where 5.88 million people have been affected.

The figure includes victims of pre-monsoon flash floods that ravaged the southeastern Chittagong and northeastern Sylhet regions last month, they said.

Forty of the deaths were in the Chittagong region, 18 in the western Sirajganj district and the rest in nearby districts, officials said.

The flooding has also killed 39,118 cattle, damaged 107,000 homes, washed away crops on 661,000 acres (267,600 hectares) of land and affected some 12,000 kilometres (7,440 miles) of roads in 18 of Bangladesh's 64 districts.

The figures were released after an inter-ministerial meeting Thursday chaired by Disaster Management Minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf, which was called to devise strategies to deal with the flooding.

The meeting decided to take immediate steps to protect vulnerable river embankments and to shift stranded people to flood shelters.

It also stressed the supply of safe water and medicines to prevent a possible outbreak of disease in affected areas.

Yusuf Thursday left Dhaka for an extensive tour of the worst-hit northern and western districts to assess the situation, his aide said, adding he is due to return to the capital on Sunday.

Officials Friday said troops had been put on alert and district civil chiefs had been advised to seek the army's help if flooding worsens.

Media reports earlier said 80 people had been killed in flood-related incidents since the monsoon began three weeks ago, with landslides in the southeastern hill tracts late last month claiming many casualties.

They said millions of people have been left homeless, displaced or in waterlogged houses with no crops to till or harvest.

Weather officials said the current floods were likely to subside in the next few days but hinted fresh monsoon rains might cause problems next month.

The government's flood warning centre said the situation was deteriorating in 10 central Bangladeshi districts, but there were signs of improvement in the north.

Bangladesh is criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers, which ravage the country almost every year.

In 1988 three months of sustained floods left several hundred people dead and caused millions of dollars of damage, prompting a French-sponsored global call to help Bangladesh to develop a long-term flood protection system.

A decade later in 1998, Bangladesh was again ravaged by major flooding that left millions homeless and caused huge damage.