Bangladesh has begun relocating 100,000 Rohingya refugees to safer ground before the monsoon season for fear of deadly landslides and floods in the congested camps, an official said Sunday, Mizzima News carries a report by AFP.
The UN says about 150,000 refugees in Bangladesh’s southeast — where nearly one million Rohingya live in shanties on hillsides — are extremely vulnerable to disease and disaster this rainy season.
Humanitarian groups have been racing to reinforce the basic shelters erected hastily by the Rohingya as they fled across the border after a fierce army crackdown on the community in western Myanmar.
Nearly 700,000 refugees have crossed the border since August into the Cox’s Bazar region, clearing trees and packing whole hillsides with unstable shanties.
Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said 100,000 refugees living in “priority” areas most at risk from floods and landslides would be relocated before June.
The once lush hillsides have turned barren, exposing the topsoil and leaving them highly vulnerable to landslides during heavy rain, he said.
“Some 200,000 people are vulnerable to landslides,” he said.
Monsoon rains wreak havoc every year in Cox’s Bazar and the adjacent Chittagong Hill Tracts, a tropical forest zone home to wild elephants.
Last season heavy rain triggered landslides in the tract region, killing 170 people. Experts blamed deforestation for worsening the impact of the mud avalanches.
In the past week UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed fears the Rohingya were “extremely vulnerable” to the annual storms.