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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK

World: South Asia

Thousands evacuated in Bangladesh floods

Rising flood waters have forced thousands to evacuate

Rescue workers in Bangladesh have been battling to evacuate thousands of people marooned by rising flood waters.

The overflowing Gomti river breached an embankment at Ebdarpur village in the Comilla district east of the capital Dhaka, inundating homes and farmland.

Relief workers are reported as saying they have evacuated at least 10,000 people from the region, with another 200,000 still marooned. Many of the villagers are perched on rooftops, waiting for relief boats.

Suburbs around Dhaka were also flooded, and several other rivers - the Jamuna, Brahmaputra, Padma and Meghna rivers - were flowing above danger levels.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

Heavy damage

Villagers in Ebdarpur were caught unawares when a 10ft high embankment gave way.

[ image: The waters washed away homes and belongings]
The waters washed away homes and belongings
Warnings were broadcast from the local mosque but the villagers were unable to do anything but watch, as their belongings were swept away.

"The waters washed away my six houses, livestock and irrigation equipment," said Mofiz Bhuyian, a local farmer.

Soldiers and local police had attempted to plug the breach but were unsuccessful.

"This is just a helpless situation. Any remedial measure is simply impossible at the moment," Bangladesh Water Resources Minister Abdur Razzak told Reuters.

A local official said the river water had washed away 6,000 homes and damaged 10,000 acres of rice fields.

Roads were also heavily flooded and transport in the region has ground to a halt. No deaths have been reported.

Vast area submerged

Reports say at least 10 rivers in the delta are flowing at dangerously high levels while several have burst through their banks.

[ image: Villagers in Comilla move to higher ground]
Villagers in Comilla move to higher ground
Newspapers said seven embankments were smashed by torrents of river water and warned several others could follow.

One official is quoted as saying that 10% of Bangladesh's total landmass is now under water.

The southeastern port of Chittagong, on the Bay of Bengal, has also been affected.

Weather officials say the floods have worsened due to water rushing down from hills in neighbouring India.

Last year, devastating floods killed at least 1,200 people in Bangladesh and left millions homeless. The economic cost has been estimated at more than $1bn.

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