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News 2014 � September

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''Flood in Bangladesh leaves thousands marooned'', a Salesian reports from the spot

By F. Gamaliel
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Kolkata, Sep. 24. .    Utrail, Bangladesh: ''Until a week back people in Durgapur Upazilla, Bangladesh, were praying for rain to save their crops. But now they are praying for the rain to stop in order to save at least their lives and the livestock from the fury of the raging river Someswari, which has already broken its banks in several places along its course'', says Fr. Gamaliel, a Salesian working in Utrail, Bangladesh, after witnessing the damage done by the flood waters. Here follows an account of the situation by Fr. Gamaliel.
The water level in all the rivers of Bangladesh is steadily inching towards the danger level, because of the recent spate of torrential rains for the past four days. Someswari river in the northern part of Bangladesh which originates in the Indian state of Meghalaya and enters the plains of Bangladesh near Durgapur has registered unprecedented rise in the water level, in a single day and has been threatening to flood the adjacent regions along its course. On 21 September 2014, alone the water level in the river rose by 2.96 meters, which is 1.7 meters above the danger level. As on 23 September morning report the river had broken its bank in three places and has inundated the villages, swallowed up the houses and deposited the sand and mire in the fields.

Baroipara, a village which is along the Someswari river bank had a similar flood in 1998. The village consisting of a Tribal group called Garo, who are mostly catholic, was a flourishing community until 1998. But a breach in the embankment resulted in a deluge that inundated the fields and deposited a meter high silt and sand in the fields.

Consequently the fields became useless and the villagers had to toil for years to de-silt it and make it productive again. As the village was limping back to normalcy the latest breach in the bank of river Soweswari near Baroipara has turned the clock back by a couple of decades. Several people who lost their houses in Baroipara to the greedy waters are living in a community hall which doubles up as the church when the priest visits them. Salesians are trying their best to help these people in distress.

Years of neglect on the part of the government and the absence of connectivity to these villages has only added to their misery. People are clutching their hand in prayer for the rains to stop, water to recede, so that they can build back their homes and lives again.

The experience that the people of Baroipara experience is a rule than an exception in Bangladesh. The fury of the Someswari river has left several hundreds of villages in Durgapur Upazilla marooned, thousands of acres of paddy crops completely submerged and the hopes of the people totally devastated.

Fr. Francis Alencherry, SDB, rector of the Salesian community in Utrail, visited the flood affected regions and spoke to the people. Later he said ''The Salesians are studying the situation. Once the water recedes we will be able to gauge the damage done by the inundation. Though we are not in a position to immediately answer to this humanitarian crisis, we will certainly help the flood affected people to get back to their normal life in the days to come. We will solve this repeated flooding with the long term solution in mind.''
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