At least 134 people have been killed in a landslide caused by heavy rain in southeast Bangladesh, according to local officials. Five of the casualties were soldiers who were clearing a road in Rangamati, a hillside district near the Indian border. The district police chief, Sayed Tariqul Hasan, offered further detail, telling the AFP that landslides had buried homes in Rangamati while many residents were still sleeping. A spokesperson for the district’s administration reported Tuesday that at least 60 people had been killed in Rangamati alone, though the death toll has since risen to 98. Another 30 casualties were reported in Chittagong, a major port city in southeastern Bangladesh. Nearby, the town of Bandarban witnessed the death of seven people, including three children, after their homes were buried in mud.
Bangladesh recently entered its monsoon season, which typically lasts from June to October, bringing storms, floods, and heavy rain that make southern hillside communities vulnerable to landslides. The non-profit development agency Plan International reports that, “by the end of monsoon season, almost one third of the country is underwater.” In 2007, around 130 people were killed in Chittagong after monsoon rain spurred heavy mudslides. Experts have since blamed the disaster on civil engineering, or hill-cutting, which makes hillside homes highly unstable. Just a few weeks ago, southeastern Bangladesh was also hit by a tropical cyclone that killed at least eight people and destroyed thousands of buildings and homes in Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, and Rangamati. At the time, around half a million people were displaced by the storm.