People use a makeshift raft made of tubes and wood to commute in Bodikona, South Surma in Sylhet on 26 June
Anis Mahmud

People’s sufferings are far from over although floodwaters have receded in Sylhet. Many people returned to their homes but they cannot reconstruct the houses damaged by the flood. Many flood victims are still waiting for relief.

The prices of the essentials have shot up in flood-ravaged areas, rubbing salt in their wounds.

Stakeholders think the main challenge lying ahead of the administration is to conduct coordinated relief activities in an effective and speedy manner. Coordination is also needed in relief distribution by various non-government organisations and individuals. Alongside distributing relief, the government also needs to pay attention to rehabilitation and reining in the prices of essential commodities.

Sachetan Nagorik Committee (SONAK) Sylhet’s former president Emad Ullah Shahidul Islam thinks there are loopholes in the overall relief management system in Sylhet.

“As there is a disaster management and relief ministry in the country, they have to remain prepared all the time (for such a natural disaster). The flood hit the region suddenly and we are told that the administration was not prepared.”

He said such unpreparedness of the administration is unacceptable since they are supposed to be always ready for disaster management.

Saying that the relief is adequate in Sylhet, deputy commissioner Md Mojibor Rahman told Prothom Alo that the local people’s representatives could not even distribute the relief goods provided by the government.

He said field-level officials and people’s representatives have been given instructions to ensure speedy distribution of relief.

He also maintained that the government is also stressing rehabilitation.

On 21 June, several hundreds of people were seen waiting in front of Sadar upazila’s Kandigaon union parishad office for relief. Many of them had to go back without relief.

The union’s chairman Md Abdul Monaf told Prothom Alo that the relief allocation of the government is too inadequate.

Allocation is only 645 grams rice and Tk 10

According to the government, a total of 21,88,851 people of 4,16,851 families were affected by the floods in Sylhet district. The government has allocated 1,412 metric tons of rice, 13,218 packets of dry food and Tk 21.4 million for them. That means the government allocation is 645 grams and Tk 10 per flood victim.

Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik’s (Sujon) Sylhet chapter president Faruk Mahmud Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that these figures speak volumes about how inadequate the allocation is for flood victims.

This is just a farce, he added.

Rehabilitation sought

According to the government, the flood damaged a total of 24,954 houses in Sylhet. As many as 49,772 people were sheltered in 576 shelter centres in 13 upazilas and city corporation areas as of Sunday afternoon. Houses of most of them were damaged.

Two houses of housemaid Mayarun Begum, 40, and workshop labourer Mannan Ahmed, 29, in Sadar upazila’s Paschim Darsha village were found totally damaged. They do not have the means to rebuild their houses.

No monitoring to control market

In a visit to Sadar upazila’s Tukerbazar and Masukganj, it was found that the prices of essentials and vegetables have shot up in the last one and a half weeks. The flood-affected people are dealing with a double blow due to an unbridled price hike.

Consumers said the prices of vegetables per kilogram have seen a rise of Tk 10 to 20. Per kg puffed rice is being sold at Tk 100-150 which was Tk 60 before the flood. Prices of candles, flattened rice (cheera), and molasses (gur) have been sold at a higher price but the administration has no effective monitoring in place to control the price hike.

Additional district magistrate Imrul Hasan, however, told Prothom Alo that the administration has beefed up market monitoring so that no one can increase the prices of commodities under the pretext of the flood.

The flood situation has improved in Sunamganj but many people, especially those of low-lying village areas, are still living in shelter centres. Houses and roads of many areas of Jagannathpur, Tahirpur, Jamalganj, Chhatak and Dowarabazar are still under water. While water receded in many areas, people are suffering from many waterborne diseases including diarrhoea, skin diseases and dysentery. Md Jahangir Hossain, deputy commissioner of Sunamganj, said the flood situation is improving in the district but two-three upazilas are still flooded.

He said things are getting back to normal slowly in the district and the government is continuing its relief activities.

* Prothom Alo’s staff correspondent from Sunamganj contributed to the report.