CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh – Landslides, flash floods, and lightning strikes killed at least 78 people Monday as unusually powerful monsoon rains hammered southeastern Bangladesh, rescue officials and witnesses said.
At least 67 people were killed and dozens injured in massive mudslides in the hilly port city of Chittagong, officials said.
Lightning strikes resulted in the deaths of another 11 people in the neighboring districts of Cox's Bazar, Noakhali and Brahmmanbaria, the food and disaster management ministry said.
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About 22 centimeters of rain fell in just three hours early Monday, the local weather bureau said. But the rains had eased by late Monday.
The worst-hit area was a congested shantytown in Chittagong, where large chunks of hill collapsed and buried dozens of bamboo and straw shacks. Army rescuers pulled out at least 35 bodies from the debris, said Shahidul Islam, a city official.
Many residents said the rainfall and flooding were among the worst in memory.
"I have never seen so much water in my life," said Mofizur Rahman, 75, who has lived near the city's main hospital, Chittagong Medical College Hospital, for 45 years.
The downtown area was submerged under 1.2 meters of water, he said.
Nasir Ahmed, a fire brigade officer, said rescuers retrieved 15 bodies from the remnants of a slum on land belonging to Bangladesh Railways. Six others died in another hillside slum near a power station, he said, and five members of a family perished when the walls of their brick home collapsed in heavy rain on the Chittagong University campus.
Four others, including a young mother and her toddler, were killed when their house collapsed. A policeman was electrocuted when he stepped on a severed electrical wire.
Emergency workers managed to rescue more than 50 injured people from the rubble.
Flash floods and inundated roads were hampering rescue efforts in the city of 4 million, 220 kilometers (135 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.
Several factories in an industrial belt around the city were also flooded, stopping production and causing extensive damage to machinery, said M.A. Mohiuddin, whose textile mill makes goods for export.
The city's telephone, television and radio networks were also interrupted as transmission stations were flooded.
Government and charity agencies distributed food and water to about 1,000 people left homeless by the calamity, the area's government administrator Mukhlesur Rahman said.
In neighboring Feni district, rain-swollen rivers flooded 15 farming villages, leaving at least 55,000 people marooned, CSB television station reported. No casualties were reported in the floods in Feni, 128 kilometers (80 miles) east of capital Dhaka, the station said.
Heavy monsoon rains — the highest recorded levels in seven years — also inundated parts of the capital Dhaka and other regions of the country over the weekend.
Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 144 million people, is buffeted by cyclones and floods that kill hundreds of people every year.
A powerful cyclone in 1991 killed 139,000 people along the coast.