As the waters started receding following Sylhet division's worst flood in living memory, the disastrous damage it inflicted also became evident, along with the challenge any recovery effort will face in the days ahead.
The death toll from the third flash flood of the year in Sylhet reached 52 till Sunday morning (from May 17), according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), but this is almost certainly an underestimate, with local sources claiming the toll to be much higher. Many areas haven't even been accessed, where the authorities have no idea of casualties.
According to Sylhet District administration, around 22 lakh people from four lakh families are bearing the brunt of this terrible disaster while 80 percent of the area still remains under water as of Sunday.
“Part of Sylhet City Corporation, all the 13 upazilas and five municipalities and 94 unions were affected in the district. The exact number of people facing the damages will be 21,87,232 (21 lakh 87 thousand 232)of 4,16,819 families (4 lakh 16 thousand 819),” said Ahsanul Alam, Assistant Commissioner of District Administration.
He said 22,450 houses and 28,945 hectares of cropland have been damaged according to official estimation so far.
However, locals are claiming the damage is vaster and the recovery will be long.
Also read: Flood situation worsens in parts of Sylhet
Bearing the brunt
Tara Mia, 70, from Janigaon village, has not seen such a terrible flood in his entire life. “On June 16, when all of a sudden water started entering my house I took shelter near a high area beside Sylhet-Sunamganj highway and remained there since. None cares about us though, people come and speed away with their vehicles as we sit helplessly beside the road,” he said.
Khushbu Begum, 60, from the same village said, ”Don’t know how we will get back to our homes after flood water lowers as it is filled with soil now.”
Husnahar Banu, 35, who took shelter in a ramshackle cottage beside the highway with her six children, said,”We took refuge here 14 days ago and are not sure how many days we will need to spend on the roads. There is still water inside the home that we left.”
Fifty-five-year-old Kahar Mia was more worried about his cattle as some of them had already washed away. “We can survive by eating flattened or parched rice but the helpless animals might die without their food,” he said.
Akkas Ali, from Jaikar Kandi village in Kandigaon union, returned home from the shelter center on Saturday evening and broke down in tears as nothing but the foundation remained.
“The floodwater took away everything but the clothes on our bodies. We are eating the relief provided by people. How will we build everything back now?” he wondered aloud as he was unsure how to bring back his family from the shelter as there is no home.
Tahera Begum from Moiar Char village said,”For five days I took shelter in Badaghat High School and as I returned home found the toilet was broken and everything in the house was damaged. Repairing everything is the biggest challenge for everyone as the flood has snatched our income sources too."