Thousands struggle to stay afloat as Bangladesh floods wreak havoc

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Flood waters have impacted thousands of people in north, northeast and central Bangladesh for over a month. (AN photo/ Shehab Sumon)
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Flood waters have impacted thousands of people in north, northeast and central Bangladesh for over a month. (AN photo/ Shehab Sumon)
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Flood waters have impacted thousands of people in north, northeast and central Bangladesh for over a month. (AN photo/ Shehab Sumon)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Thousands struggle to stay afloat as Bangladesh floods wreak havoc

  • As of Saturday 41 people had died from the floods, which has affected more than 5.5 million people
  • Officials said that although floodwaters had receded, recovery time could be longer due to waterlogging

DHAKA: Thousands of Bangladeshis are struggling to make a living, with more than 40 percent of the country submerged in water following the worst floods since 1998, officials said Saturday.
As of Saturday 41 people had died from the floods, which has affected more than 5.5 million people out of a population of 166 million since June, according to government data.
“We are continuing relief activities in the flood-hit areas,” Moazzem Hossain, additional secretary at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told Arab News. “At present, around 70,000 flood victims are sheltered in 1,452 shelter centers and we will continue this relief support as long as needed.”
The worst-affected areas in the north, northeast and central Bangladesh include Kurigram, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Natore,  Sirajgong, Bogura, Jamalpur, Netrokona, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Munshiganj, Tangail, and Manikganj districts.
Officials said that although the floodwaters had receded, the recovery time could be longer in certain pockets of the country due to waterlogging which would invariably “increase the suffering” of people in several areas.
“Including the two main rivers, Padma and Jamuna, 12 other rivers are now flowing above the danger level,” Arifur Rahman, executive engineer at the flood forecast and warning center at the Water Development Board told Arab News. “The situation is expected to have a better look by the end of this week as floodwater started receding in some areas.” 
On the ground, however, residents said the situation was much worse than what was being reported.
“I have been living on the dam for around one month,” Ashek Nizam, a 43-year-old fisherman from Munshiganj district, told Arab News. “The floodwater started inundating our village during night hours and we didn’t get enough time to save our valuables. I just rushed to the nearby dam with my three children and wife.”
He said that the floods had dealt “a double blow” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “I had no income since last April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t know how I can feed my children in the coming days since my annual rice stocks have been washed away by floodwater,” he added.
Abdur Rahman, another flood victim and a farmer from the same area, was distraught and feared a “bleak future” after losing all his cattle to the floods.
“It appeared so quickly that I was not able to save my cattle,” he told Arab News, his voice choking as he spoke. “I have no idea how I can continue my land cultivation in the next dry season.”
Hossain said authorities were assessing the damage and losses caused.
“Authorities will continue the relief support program unless people find the way out of their regular livelihoods. We have enough resources and funds in stock and there is nothing to worry about in this situation unless any other major disaster hits the country.”


India coronavirus cases pass 6 million

Updated 15 min 41 sec ago

India coronavirus cases pass 6 million

  • India could leapfrog the US in the coming weeks
  • Narendra Modi has called on people to keep wearing face coverings when they ventured outside of their homes

NEW DELHI: India reported its six millionth coronavirus case on Monday as it surged closer to the United States as the most-infected nation, and authorities pressed ahead with reigniting the economy.
The vast nation is home to 1.3 billion people, some of humanity’s most densely populated cities and a feeble health care system, and for several weeks it has reported around 90,000 new cases daily — the highest in the world.
Health ministry data showed a rise of 82,000 cases on Monday, taking the total to 6.1 million and closing the gap on the United States, which has recorded 7.1 million infections. India could leapfrog the US in the coming weeks.
India has a much lower death rate than other worst-hit nations with almost 100,000 fatalities so far — fewer than half the grisly toll of 205,000 recorded in the US, which has roughly a quarter of the population. Brazil has meanwhile recorded 140,000 deaths.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on people to keep wearing face coverings when they ventured outside of their homes.
“These rules are weapons in the war against corona. They are potent tools to save the life of every citizen,” Modi said during his monthly radio address on Sunday.
The virus initially hit major metropolises including financial hub Mumbai and capital New Delhi, but has since spread to regional and rural areas where health care systems are even more fragile and patchy.
“In several of the pockets where the transmission is active, the infection has gone into the community,” former national health secretary Sujatha Rao said.
“It is difficult to control transmission in such situations and a dramatic turnaround can perhaps be possible only through a rigorous implementation of a lockdown and preventive measures like mask wearing.”
The government is unlikely to reimpose major restrictions after a lockdown in March battered the economy and wrecked the livelihoods of millions of people, particularly the poor.
Some schools have now reopened, and trains, metros, domestic flights, markets and restaurants have been allowed to operate with some restrictions. The Taj Mahal also opened again for tourists this month.
Anand Krishnan, a community medicine professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, said authorities should focus on treating people who contract the virus.
“The only thing that we can do is take care of people who are ill — identify them faster and treat them better. And follow the social-distancing norms,” he said.
“Beyond that, I don’t think there is anything specific that can be done.”
Some locals in Delhi said that while they remained cautious, their worries about the pandemic had lessened since the start of the year.
“I’m out of the house all day because of my work. I don’t step out of the house for anything else,” said 23-year-old medical store worker Umang Chutani.
“The future is uncertain but one can only be cautious and follow all safety protocols.”
Himanshu Kainthola, 61, who recovered from the virus last month after testing positive with two other relatives, said his family’s fears “have reduced substantially.”
“We have made peace with it. We take the necessary precautions and invest in increasing our immunity rather than being anxious or scared of it.”
Creative writing student Santosh added that the virus was now “part of our lives.”
“You cannot shutdown every business, because the economy cannot collapse... COVID-19 is not going to pay the rent,” he said.