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Death Toll in Bangladesh Monsoon at 126

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By OSMAN GANI MANSUR
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 13, 2007; 4:11 AM

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh -- Workers pulled mud-covered bodies from the rubble Wednesday, as the death toll from monsoon storms rose to 126 and an overflowing river forced several thousand villagers to flee their homes.

Eighteen more bodies were found in the worst-hit city of Chittagong, most of them children and women, city official Nur Sulaiman said.

Many parts of the city of 4 million remained without power or water because of flooding. Several city roads remained covered in slippery sludge, residents said.

In neighboring Comilla district, rain-swollen Gumti River breached an embankment Wednesday, flooding dozens of villages and forcing several thousand villagers to flee their homes, CSB television station reported.

At least 75,000 people have been marooned in Comilla, a farming district 55 miles east of capital Dhaka, the station reported. No flood-related casualties were immediately reported.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people, is buffeted by floods that kill hundreds of people every year and often displace millions. The rains _ the heaviest recorded in seven years _ also have inundated parts of the capital, Dhaka, and other regions of the country.

At least 115 have perished in Chittagong, officials said Wednesday. Lightning strikes killed 11 people Monday in the neighboring districts of Cox's Bazar, Noakhali and Brahmmanbaria, the Flood and Disaster Management Ministry said.

Most deaths in Chittagong occurred in a shantytown where chunks of earth slid off soaked hillsides Monday and buried dozens of crudely built shacks.

Densely populated and grindingly poor, the country is filled with slums that are particularly vulnerable _ the one hit in Chittagong was home to 700 people, most of them migrant workers and their families, who lived in clusters of straw-and-bamboo or mud-and-tin shanties built on the slope of hill, survivors said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations "stands ready to assist as required" and extended his deepest condolences to the families of those killed or injured, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Rescue officials said authorities had moved hundreds of people in vulnerable areas to shelters in concrete school buildings.

Government and charity agencies distributed food and water to about 1,000 people left homeless by the calamity, the area's government administrator Mukhlesur Rahman said. Emergency workers had managed to rescue more than 50 injured people from the rubble.

Rains also caused havoc in the neighboring Indian city of Calcutta, killing three people, bringing transport to a standstill, clogging roads, submerging railroad tracks and delaying flights.

Three people were killed by lightning at a fish market at Kestopur, a Calcutta suburb on Wednesday, said local police officer, B.D. Manna.

___

Associated Press Writer Dilip Ganguly in Calcutta, India contributed to this report.


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