Md Kashem Ahmed, a businessman living in Sylhet city’s Modina Market area went to his village home in Sylhet Sadar upazila’s Kandigaon to rescue his grandmother stranded in the flood at Thursday midnight.

On his way back, the boat carrying Kashem and others drowned due to a heavy current of water. Although others were rescued, Kashem’s grandmother drowned. Kashem went missing and could not be rescued as of 6:00pm on Friday, his friends told Prothom Alo quoting his family members.

Many feared that a humanitarian crisis will emerge if the floods don’t recede or proper rescue operations are taken. As Sylhet’s bordering rivers continue to swell due to incessant rain in Sylhet and neighboring areas of India, many people are stranded and have been calling for rescue since Thursday night.

People of Sunamganj and Sylhet made frantic calls on Facebook to save their near and dear ones as flash floods in greater Sylhet and upstream in India ravaged most of the upazilas of two districts. People took to Facebook to inform the ordeals they were going through. Many people made calls for their relatives to be rescued from the flood affected area.

Parts of Sylhet city and the district’s upazilas such as Sadar, Gowainghat, Jaintiapur, Companiganj, Kanaighat and South Surma; Sunamganj’s Sadar, Chhatak, Dowarabazar, Derai, Jamalganj are among the worst-hit areas.

There was around 2,500 millimetres of rainfall in Sylhet’s bordering Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya in the last three days. Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre said the flood situation might deteriorate further since heavy rain is likely to continue in northeast India and Bangladesh in the next three days.

People take shelter on the rooftop of their home inundated by floods. The picture is taken in Sylhet’s Gowainghat on 17 June.
Anis Mahmud

According to the Indian Meteorological Department, there was a total of 972 millimeters of rainfall in Meghalaya’s Cherrapunjee in the last 24 hours, a record in June in the last 122 years.

Ramanuj Acharjee, a lecturer of Bangla department at Sunamganj Government Womens College, wrote in a Facebook post, “The journalists, members of Army, Navy, Police, BGB, Fire Service, NSI and others working in different forces please inform your high ups that the flood situation in Sunamganj has turned deadly. Huge amounts of dry food and drinking water are required here. There is no house left in Sunamganj that is not inundated up to the rooftop. Power, gas or mobile network is not working in Sunamganj.”

Amirul Islam Masud, an assistant director of Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection stationed in Sylhet and a resident of Sunamganj town, wrote on Facebook, “I feel helpless. My parents are in my hometown. My house is inundated with neck-high water. All of my family members have taken shelter at a nearby multi-storey building.”

A helpless Amirul wrote he can’t go to Sunamganj as the road communication with Sylhet is snapped due to the flood. He can’t even call his parents as their mobiles are switched off due to lack of charge.

With power substations and electric poles inundated, the power supply has been cut in different parts of Sylhet. Around 175,000 power subscribers in Sylhet and Sunamganj are now without electricity.

Kumargaon grid substation in Sylhet. Photo taken Friday morning

Jahangir Alam, a physician working in Sylhet Infectious Disease Hospital told Prothom Alo that his house in Gowainghat has been inundated since Thursday evening.

“The ground floor of my house has been inundated with shoulder-high water. My family has taken shelter on the upper floor. As the kitchen is on the ground floor, they could not cook anything since last night. They are having dry food.”

Jahangir told Prothom Alo that he can neither go home for the last three days as the roads are totally submerged nor did he get any updates from his mother and other family members since all the mobile phones are down.

“It’s a very distressing situation to know your family members and relatives are in such danger but you cannot do anything,” Jahangir said adding that many of their neighbours have taken shelter in their building.

RS Chowdhury Shipon, a student of Dhaka University, wrote on Facebook that many students at Dhaka University’s residential halls are in the dark about how their parents and relatives are doing as they cannot contact them on mobile.

“It’s unbearable to see your friends crying in front of you,” Shipon wrote.

Mobile network is not working properly in many areas of Sylhet and Sunamganj, wrote many.

Some also said that many people dependent on agriculture couldn’t save their livestock.

People are heading towards safer places as floods submerged their homes in Saluthikar area in Gowainghat, Sylhet
Anis Mahmud

Abu Taher Tuhin, a student of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology’s English department and a resident of Chhatak, in a live video streaming on Facebook said, “This is not like any previous floods. Our life is in danger. Please help us in any way you can and inform the high-ups of the government about the sufferings we are going through.”

Al-Amin Rahman, a student of Dhaka University from Sunamganj’s Chhatak and a central leader of Bangladesh Chhatra League posted on Facebook, “None has witnessed a flood of such a devastating scale. My home is under 6 feet water.”

Talking with Prothom Alo, Al Amin said he too could not contact his mother and younger brother as their phones are switched off but they have been evacuated to a safe place on Wednesday.

A flooded road in Sunamganj town
Khalil Rahman

Many people on Thursday night urged the government to deploy members of the Bangladesh Army and Bangladesh Navy for rescue operation.

Army men, however, were deployed in eight upazilas of Sylhet and Sunamganj including Sylhet Sadar, Chhatak, Derai, Dowarabazar, Jamalganj on Friday morning for conducting rescue operations, general officer commanding (GOC) of the 17th Infantry Division of Bangladesh Army Major General Hamidur Rahman told journalists.

Different political and social organisations were also carrying out rescue operations but they cannot reach some remote areas due to the heavy current of water and torrential rains.

Flooded Sylhet-Sunamganj highway
Prothom Alo

Nasir Uddin, chairman of Alhaj Shamsul Haque Foundation, said they are rescuing people stranded in Gowainghat upazila but their teams have been facing serious difficulties in conducting rescue operations due to inclement weather.

Sylhet’s Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) authorities closed it till 25 June amid flooding and all aircraft operation in the Osmani International Airport has been suspended as the flood water reached close to the runway.

Witnesses said people in affected areas can’t even take shelter in school or college buildings since most of them are inundated.