Army deployed in Bangladesh as millions stranded in worst floods in a generation

Report by ITV News Business & Economics producer Mahatir Pasha from Sylhet

The army has been deployed to assist with flood relief efforts as the north eastern district of Sylhet in Bangladesh is engulfed by extreme rainfall and heavily floods. 

Flash floods have left millions of people stranded and their homes underwater. At least 18 people have died as floods cut a swatch across northeastern India and Bangladesh.

Much of the Sylhet region is experiencing power outages and telecommunication breakdowns. Multiple roads have also been submerged decimating travel networks. 

The army was deployed on Friday and is largely helping to distribute emergency supplies and assisting with transportation to and from shelters.

Local media is reporting around 10,000 people have been moved into temporary refuge, mostly opened up in primary schools. Numerous people have also had their homes severely damaged. 

The country has asked the military to help with the severe flooding, which could worsen with rains expected to continue over the weekend. Credit: AP

Just outside Dargah gate, which acts as an entry point into one of Bangladesh’s holiest sites, I met 47 year-old Gulabi Bibi. 

She travelled to this location (where the 13th century Sufi scholar Shah Jalal who brought Islam to Sylhet lies to rest) in the hope that she might find godly people willing to offer her support. 

Bibi said her tin home in Sylhet has been completely destroyed and she’s been forced to leave.

Bibi described how the floor waters had risen up to her neck. Credit: ITV News

As she tried to find people willing to offer her some shelter and cash handouts she told me: "The water was up to my throat at one stage, all of our belongings are damaged, my home is ruined, I’ve lost everything".

The flooding in Sylhet - the worst in a generation - has forced authorities to shut down Osmani International Airport in the city. Flight operations have been suspended for at least three days due to floodwaters almost reaching the runway according to Hafiz Ahmed, the airport’s general manager. 

Local media is reporting the latest reading from Bangladesh’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre shows the Surma river - which begins in north eastern India - was flowing 120cm above the danger level at Sunamgonj point, the area worst hit by the floods in Bangladesh so far. 

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know... 

Other rivers flowing through Sylhet such as the Sarigowain are also overflowing above the danger level. Bangladesh’s geography as a country with low-lying land sitting in Asia’s largest river delta system makes it particularly vulnerable to climate change. Experts are saying this latest bout of extreme whether, is a symptom of this.

Professor Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka told ITV News: "This is yet another example of just how bad climate change is impacting us all.

"When the world emits emissions, sure we all feel it, but climatically vulnerable countries like Bangladesh feel it the worst. Everyone needs to see how disastrous the situation in Sylhet is right now so that the richer countries might act."

Flood warnings remain throughout Sylhet and neighbouring areas as the rain shows no sign of easing off.