Why Tiger Widows Of Bangladesh Are Tagged ‘Bad Omen’

In this photograph taken on November 11, 2019, Bangladeshi mother-of-four Mosammat Rashida, whose husband was killed by a Bengal tiger a decade ago while he was collecting honey, stands next to a mirror at her house in Shyamnagar 
Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP

 

Abandoned by her sons, shunned by her neighbours and branded a witch.

Mosammat Rashida’s crime? Her husband was killed by a Bengal tiger.

Women like her are ostracised in many rural villages in Bangladesh, where they are viewed as the cause of their partner’s misfortune.

“My sons have told me that I am an unlucky witch,” she told AFP in her flimsy plank home, in the honey-hunters’ village of Gabura at the edge of the Sundarbans — a 10,000-square-kilometre (3,860-square-mile) mangrove forest that straddles Bangladesh and India.

Her husband died while out collecting honey in the jungles there.

“Honey-hunters prefer to collect honey mostly in the southwestern Sundarbans, where most of the man-eaters (tigers) live,” leading Bengal tiger expert at Jahangirnagar University, Monirul Khan, told AFP.

Tigers are an endangered species but climate change and human development are reducing their wild habitat, often forcing them towards villages in search of food.

Wildlife charities estimate there are some 100 tigers in the Bangladesh side of the Sundarbans.

At least 519 men died from tiger attacks in 50 villages in one district — home to half a million people — between 2001 and 2011, according to Ledars Bangladesh, a charity helping widows reintegrate back in the villages.

Their deaths are a double blow for the women left behind.

Already grieving the loss of their partner, overnight they become ‘tiger widows’ — pariahs in their homes and villages at a time when they most need support.

They are often left with little means to support themselves or their families.

– ‘Bring bad luck’ –

Rashida is heartbroken but unsurprised that her adult sons, aged 24 and 27, abandoned her and their two young siblings.

“They are part of this society after all,” the 45-year-old said, as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Her tiny shack has no roof — it was blown off by a deadly cyclone — but there have been no offers of help from neighbours or officials, who she claims helped others in the village but shunned her.

Instead, she uses an old tarpaulin to keep the elements out.

Next door, Mohammad Hossain was fixing his broken tin roof and confessed he had been instructed by his wife not to talk to Rashida.

“It would mar my family’s well-being and could bring bad luck,” the 31-year-old honey-hunter said.

Officials denied omitting Rashida from the help they provided after the cyclone.

But the head of Ledars Bangladesh, Mohon Kumar Mondal, said the mistreatment of “tiger widows” was widespread in highly conservative communities, which often held “centuries-old” prejudices.

“They (charities) are working to restore the widows’ dignities. The main challenge is to change people’s beliefs,” he explained.

“The change is very slow. Still, I’d say there has been progress,” he added, noting that younger, more educated villagers were less fearful of the widows.

n this photograph taken on November 11, 2019, “tiger widow” Rijia Khatun, whose husband was killed by a Bengal tiger 15 years ago while he was collecting honey, sits in her house in Shyamnagar.
Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP

– ‘Staying alive’ –

Rijia Khatun, who said she has learnt to cope with being ostracised by her fellow villagers after her honey-hunter husband’s death 15 years ago, has been secretly supported by her nephew and his family.

“My sons were young. But nobody helped me. I felt bad at first as they kept blaming me for my husband’s death. I didn’t know what was my fault,” she recalled, adding: “But now I’ve learnt to live with this adversity.”

Her nephew Yaad Ali, who has witnessed several attacks including his uncle’s, explained that while he wanted to help, he could not do so publicly.

“We had to do it (help Khatun) with confidentiality or else the village society would have ostracised us as well,” he confessed.

Honey hunting has traditionally been seen as a more accessible vocation for villagers who can’t afford the equipment or boats needed to undertake the region’s other main profession — fishing.

But fears of being killed by the predators — and the consequences for the wives they leave behind — has meant more and more men are opting for a different trade.

Harun ur Rashid, whose father was killed by a tiger, said he was now a fisherman, despite coming from generations of honey-hunters.

The 21-year-old said: “My mother doesn’t want me to end up like my father. And I want to stay alive and take care of her because she has suffered a lot and endured enough abuses after my father’s death.”

AFP

At Least 15 Refugees Drown After Boat Sinks Off Bangladesh

 

At least 15 women and children drowned and more than 50 others were missing after a boat overloaded with Rohingya refugees sank off southern Bangladesh as it tried to reach Malaysia Tuesday, officials said.

Some 138 people — mainly women and children — were packed on a trawler barely 13 metres (40 feet) long, trying to cross the Bay of Bengal, a coast guard spokesman told AFP.

“It sank because of overloading. The boat was meant to carry a maximum of 50 people. The boat was also loaded with some cargo,” another coast guard spokesman, Hamidul Islam, added.

Seventy-one people have been rescued including 46 women. Among the dead, 11 were women and the rest children.

Anwara Begum said two of her sons, aged six and seven, drowned in the tragedy.

“We were four of us in the boat… Another child (son, aged 10) is very sick,” the 40-year-old told AFP.

Fishermen tipped off the coast guard after they saw survivors swimming and crying for help in the sea.

The boat’s keel hit an undersea coral in shallow water off Saint Martin’s island, Bangladesh’s southernmost territory, before it sank, survivors said.

“We swam in the sea before boats came and rescued us,” said survivor Mohammad Hossain, 20.

Coast guard commander Sohel Rana said three survivors, including a Bangladeshi, were detained over human trafficking allegations.

Nearly one million Rohingya live in squalid camps near Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, many fleeing the neighbouring country after a 2017 brutal military crackdown.

With few opportunities for jobs and education in the camps, thousands have tried to reach other countries like Malaysia and Thailand by attempting the hazardous 2,000-kilometre journey.

An estimated 25,000 Rohingya left Bangladesh and Myanmar on boats in 2015 trying to get to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Hundreds drowned when overloaded boats sank.

 ‘Tragedy waiting to happen’ 

Begum said her family paid a Bangladeshi trafficker $450 per head to be taken to Malaysia.

“We’re first taken to a hill where we stayed for five days. Then they used three small trawlers to take us to a large trawler, which sank,” she said.

Shakirul Islam, a migration expert whose group works with Rohingya to raise awareness against trafficking, said desperation in the camps was making refugees want to leave.

“It was a tragedy waiting to happen,” he said.

“They just want to get out, and fall victim to traffickers who are very active in the camps.”

Islam said in the past two months dozens of Rohingya reported approaches from traffickers to his OKUP migration rights group.

“Human smuggling and trafficking in the Bay of Bengal is particularly difficult to address as it requires concerted effort from multiple states,” the Bangladesh head of UN agency the International Organisation for Migration, Giorgi Gigauri, told AFP.

“The gaps in coordination are easily exploited by criminal networks.”

Since last year, Bangladesh authorities have picked up over 500 Rohingya from rickety fishing trawlers or coastal villages as they waited to board boats.

Trafficking often increases during the November-March period when the sea is safest for the small trawlers used by traffickers.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal to send back some Rohingya to their homeland, but none have agreed to return because of safety fears.

Save the Children called on Myanmar to “take all necessary steps to ensure the Rohingya community can return to their homes in a safe and dignified manner”.

“The tragic drowning of women and children… should be a wake-up call for us all,” Athena Rayburn of Save the Children said in a statement.

AFP

Bangladesh Shuts Mobile Network Along India Border

 

 

Bangladesh has cut services to millions of mobile phones along its border with India for “security” reasons amid fears a new citizenship law passed by its giant neighbour could prompt an influx of migrants.

The country’s telecom regulator ordered the mobile shutdown late Monday along a one-kilometre (0.6-mile) band along the Indian frontier, the watchdog’s spokesman Sohel Rana said.

The directive was issued “for the sake of the country’s security in the current circumstances,” the spokesman told AFP.

Bangladesh shares a 4,000-kilometre (2,500-mile) border with India and the shutdown would affect some 10 million mobile phone users, according to a top official from one operator.

“A large number of people in the border area will be without internet, voice and other mobile services,” said S.M. Farhad, a spokesman for an industry association of local telecom operators.

Officials from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said that the move was prompted by fears of fallout from India’s new Citizenship Amendment Act, which accords rights to refugee migrants from neighbouring countries but excludes Muslims.

“We are worried that India’s current condition may prompt many people to enter Bangladesh,” said a BTRC official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

At least 350 people had been arrested as they entered western border district of Jhenidah from India’s West Bengal state in the last two months, an official said, adding they were mostly Bangladeshi Muslims who went to India illegally.

Local border guard commander Kamrul Ahsan said the number of people entering Bangladesh from India had risen dramatically as a result of the citizenship law.

Two weeks of protests over the law in India have seen at least 27 people killed and hundreds injured after clashes between police and protesters.

The earlier exclusion of nearly two million people from a new list of citizens in India’s Assam state has already triggered fears of deportations to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has said attempts to deport people from India had been thwarted by border guards in recent weeks.

Media reports said hundreds of people who have recently entered Bangladesh from India have been detained by border guards.

AFP

16 Dead, 60 Injured As Trains Collide in Bangladesh

Bystanders look on after a train collided with another train in Brahmanbaria some 130 kms from Dhaka on November 12, 2019. Two packed trains rammed into each other in Bangladesh on November 12, killing at least 16 people and injuring nearly 60 others, police said.
STR / AFP

 

Two packed trains rammed into each other in Bangladesh on Tuesday, killing at least 16 people and injuring nearly 60 others, police said.

Three coaches were sent crashing off the tracks at Mondobhag station in the town of Kasba when a Dhaka-bound train and a locomotive bound for Chittagong collided.

“At least 16 people have been killed. And another 58 were injured. We have sent the injured to different hospitals in the region,” local police chief Anisur Rahman told AFP.

Cranes and other lifting gear were brought in to rescue trapped passengers, many of whom were asleep when the early morning crash took place.

“There was a loud noise, then I saw the train was completely ripped apart,” one injured passenger told Somoy TV.

“All the people around me were crying. There was blood everywhere. Some people had broken hands and legs,” another told the broadcaster.

“My son was with me. I still don’t know what happened to him,” the man added.

Hayat ud Doula Khan, a government official in the district, said the Dhaka-bound Turna Nishitha train, hit the Chittagong-bound Udayan Express at about 3:00 am (2100 GMT Monday) as the Udayan was about to go through Mondobhog station.

Khan told AFP that the Turna Nishitha should have waited outside the station to let the other train pass and that an investigation had been started. A Bangladesh railway official told reporters faulty signals could be to blame.

“Three coaches were badly mangled and the victims are from these coaches,” Khan said, adding that train services out of Dhaka had been halted because of the accident.

Train accidents are common in Bangladesh and are often caused by poor signalling or other rundown infrastructure.

According to the Shipping and Communication Reporters Forum (SCRF), a private media research group, between January 1 and June 30 this year, at least 202 rail accidents took place in the South Asian country of 168 million people where some of the track is a century old.

In June, a train plunged into a canal after the bridge it was crossing gave way. Five people were killed and 100 injured.

The SCRF said pedestrians using mobile phones while crossing tracks, negligence by railway employees and poor maintenance of lines and bridges were the main cause of crashes.

14 Dead As Cyclone Bulbul Smashes Into India, Bangladesh Coasts

 

Fourteen people died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in storm shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh with fierce gales and torrential rains, officials said Sunday.

The cyclone packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour when it hit late Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.

Seven people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, the Press Trust of India reported, including two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by falling branches in Kolkata.

An eighth person died under a collapsed wall in nearby Odisha state.

In Bangladesh, six people were killed — five by falling trees — and at least 20 people were injured.

Five others are missing after a fishing trawler sank in squally weather on Meghna river near the southern island of Bhola, district administrator Masud Alam Siddiqui told AFP.

The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP.

In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.

Some low-lying parts of the district were flooded, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.

“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun told AFP.

Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins.

The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.

‘Trail of destruction’

Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.

Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.

“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.

“I am worried about my cattle and the straw roof of my house. I could not bring them here. Allah knows what is happening there,” the 30-year-old mother of three told AFP.

Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St. Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.

In India, nearly 120,000 people who were evacuated started to return home as the cyclone weakened, authorities said.

“The storm has left a trail of destruction as it’s crossed the coastline of West Bengal,” the state’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.

Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, and India’s east are regularly battered by cyclones.

Hundreds of thousands of people living around the Bay of Bengal have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.

While the frequency and intensity of the storms have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of thousands of coastal shelters.

Cyclone Fani was the most powerful storm to hit the area in years when it struck in May, killing 12 people.

Eight Killed As Cyclone Bulbul Smashes Into India, Bangladesh Coasts

 

Eight people died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in storm shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh with fierce gales and torrential rains, officials said Sunday.

The cyclone packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour when it hit late Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.

Three people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by the falling branches of a tree in Kolkata. A fourth person died in a wall collapse in nearby Odisha state.

In Bangladesh, four more were killed by falling trees and at least 20 people were injured. The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, Bangladesh’s disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP.

In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.

Some low-lying parts of the district were flooded, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.

“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun told AFP.

Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including the Bengal tigers and the Irrawaddy dolphins.

The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.

‘Trail of destruction’

Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.

Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.

“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.

“I am worried about my cattle and the straw roof of my house. I could not bring them here. Allah knows what is happening there,” the 30-year-old mother of three told AFP.

Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St. Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.

In India, nearly 120,000 people who were evacuated started to return home as the cyclone weakened, authorities said.

“The storm has left a trail of destruction as it’s crossed the coastline of West Bengal,” the state’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.

“Trees were uprooted, thatched and corrugated roofs of many houses were blown away.”

Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, and India’s east are regularly battered by cyclones.

Hundreds of thousands of people living around the Bay of Bengal have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.

While the frequency and intensity of the storms have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of thousands of coastal shelters.

Cyclone Fani was the most powerful storm to hit the area in years when it struck in May, killing 12 people.

Court Sentences 16 To Death For Burning Teenager

 

Sixteen people were sentenced to death Thursday for burning alive a Bangladeshi teenager  who refused to withdraw sexual assault charges against her head teacher.

The case highlights what activists say is a culture of impunity over sexual violence in the South Asian country of 168 million people, as well as abuse rife in around 20,000 seminaries that educate mostly poor and rural students.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused in kerosene and set on fire on April 6 after she made a sexual harassment complaint against the principal of her rural Islamic seminary.

The head teacher, who a court in the southern coastal town of Feni found had ordered the brutal killing from jail after being arrested over the harassment claim, was among those sentenced to death.

Others included activists from the ruling Awami League party and some students — including two females — who either participated in the killing or guarded the gates of the seminary while it took place.

“The verdict proves that nobody will get away with murder in Bangladesh. We have the rule of law,” prosecutor Hafez Ahmed told reporters after the verdict in a crowded courtroom.

Rafi was lured to the rooftop of the seminary in Sonagazi where her attackers pressed her to withdraw the complaint she had filed with police.

When she refused, she was tied up, doused in kerosene and set on fire.

She suffered burns to 80 percent of her body and died in hospital four days later.

Her death triggered widespread horror across the nation, with protesters in the capital Dhaka staging days of demonstrations seeking “exemplary punishment” for the killers.

The murder put pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to do more to protect women, with her government ordering some 27,000 schools to set up committees to prevent sexual violence.

 ‘Not a big deal’ 

Rafi had gone to police in late March to report the sexual harassment, and a leaked video shows the local station chief registering her complaint but dismissing it as “not a big deal”.

Police said the attackers’ plan had been to pass off her death as suicide, but this failed after Rafi managed to stagger down the stairs while still engulfed in flames.

Activists say many of the women and children who report sexual violence in Bangladesh often suffer a backlash, and that successful prosecutions are rare.

Rafi’s case was fast-tracked, with the hearing taking only 62 days at a special tribunal hearing cases of violence against women and children.

Maleka Banu, head of a woman’s rights group, told AFP: “It is an exemplary punishment. We hope it will send a serious message to the perpetrators and collaborators of sexual violence.”

She said she hoped the verdict would work as a deterrent and would bring down “alarming rise” in sexual violence in the country.

Since the arrest of the principal, at least five more madrasa teachers have been held on charges of rape and sexual assault of their students.

The head of the Mahila Parishad, another women’s rights group, gave a “guarded welcome” at the quick conclusion of the case, but said more needed to be done to ensure increased convictions for sexual harassment and rape cases.

According to that group, there were 731 incidents of sexual violence reported in the first six months of the year, including 592 rapes, 113 gang rapes and 26 women who were killed after being sexually assaulted.

Researcher Rezaur Rahman Lenin said on average more than 200 people are sentenced to death each year in Bangladesh, and as of May around 1,500 people were on death row

The number of executions carried out is less than 10 a year.

Defence lawyers said they would appeal against Thursday’s verdict in the high court.

AFP

Four Killed As Police Fire On Bangladesh Protesters

Demonstrators receive medical treatment in a hospital after police fired on people protesting over a Facebook post by a Hindu who allegedly defamed the Prophet Mohammed, in Barisal on October 20, 2019. MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP

 

At least four people were killed and nearly 50 injured on Sunday after police fired on thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims protesting a Facebook post by a Hindu who allegedly defamed the Prophet Mohammed, officials said.

Mob attacks over Facebook posts perceived to be blasphemous have emerged as a major headache for security forces in Bangladesh, where Muslims make up some 90 percent of the country’s 168 million people.

Some 20,000 Muslims demonstrated at a prayer ground in Borhanuddin town on the country’s largest island of Bhola to call for the execution of the young Hindu man, who was arrested Saturday over charges of inciting religious tension.

Police said they opened fire in self-defence after some of the crowd threw rocks at their officers.

“At least four people were killed and up to 50 people were injured,” police inspector Salahuddin Mia told AFP.

He said extra police and border guards were being deployed in the town.

The death toll is expected to rise, with Bhola Sadar Hospital duty doctor Tayebur Rahman telling AFP at least seven of the 43 people taken to hospital were fighting for their lives.

“We have sent the critically injured people to the regional hospital in Barisal (city). Their conditions are not stable,” he said.

In 2016, angry Muslims attacked Hindu temples in an eastern town over a Facebook post was put up allegedly mocking one of Islam’s holiest sites.

In 2012, Muslim mobs torched Buddhist monasteries, houses and shops in the coastal Cox’s Bazar district following a Buddhist youth’s alleged defamatory photo post of the Koran.

Bangladesh has also experienced a number of attacks on people from religious minorities, secular bloggers, publishers, writers and foreigners, many claimed by Islamist militants.

AFP

Bangladesh Cuts Mobile Internet Access In Rohingya Camps

Rohingya refugees arrive to attend a ceremony organised to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2019.

 

Bangladesh cut access to 3G and 4G internet in Rohingya camps Tuesday, in a further clampdown on communications among the refugees as Dhaka grows increasingly frustrated with failed attempts to repatriate them back to Myanmar.

Despite an agreement between the two countries in November 2017 to send back the Rohingya, virtually none of the 740,000 who fled Myanmar following an August 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine state have returned.

The government has instructed operators to shut down 3G, 4G and LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks in the Rohingya camp areas in Teknaf and Ukhia, S.M. Farhad, secretary-general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said in a statement.

The border towns of Teknaf and Ukhia are home to three dozen refugee camps where the Rohingya live in squalid conditions.

2G services “will remain active,” Farhad added.

But Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow at the LIRNEasia think tank, told AFP that the shutdown “effectively means the shutdown of internet. With 2G network, it will be almost impossible to access.”

Operators had already halted the sale of SIM cards in the camps and shut down 3G and 4G network connections between 5:00 pm and 6:00 am local time.

Bangladesh’s telecommunications regulator on September 3 ordered phone companies to temporarily cut off mobile access in the camps, citing security grounds.

The clampdown has stunned the refugees and disrupted communications between different camps and with Rohingya still in Myanmar.

Rights group Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged the government to end the restrictions, saying they “made matters worse”.

“The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps,” HRW said.

Bangladesh Ready To Repatriate 3,500 Rohingya Refugees To Myanmar

This file photo shows Myanmar Navy personnel escorting a group of Rohingya Muslims back to their camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State after they were caught fleeing on a boat.

 

Some 3,500 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have been cleared to return home to Myanmar beginning this week, a top official said Monday, nearly two years after a military crackdown sparked their exodus.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in August 2017 from a military offensive in Myanmar – joining 200,000 already there – but virtually none have volunteered to return despite the countries signing a repatriation deal.

Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, however, said he was “optimistic” about a new repatriation process scheduled to start on Thursday.

A previous attempt in November 2018 to return 2,260 Rohingya failed after they refused to leave the camp without guarantees for their safety.

“Everything is ready… the land transit point has been prepared,” Kalam told reporters after a meeting with Myanmar officials in Cox’s Bazar, southeast Bangladesh, where the refugees live in vast camps.

“Nobody will be forced to return unless they volunteer,” he said.

Bangladesh and Myanmar officials plan to repatriate 300 Rohingya each day, with some 3,500 refugees cleared to make the journey home, Kalam said.

The new push follows a visit last month to the camps by high-ranking officials from Myanmar led by Permanent Foreign Secretary Myint Thu.

Sunday will mark the second anniversary of the crackdown that sparked the mass exodus to the Bangladesh camps.

Kalam said Myanmar and United Nations officials were meeting with selected refugees on Tuesday to encourage them to return to Rakhine State.

The Rohingya, who are mostly Muslim, are not recognised as an official minority by the Myanmar government which considers them Bengali interlopers despite many families having lived in Rakhine for generations.

40 Dead In Bangladesh’s Viral Dengue Outbreak

A municipal worker sprays insecticide to kill mosquitos in Dhaka on August 5, 2019, as Bangladeshi authorities attempted to contain a dengue fever outbreak.  Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP

 

At least 40 people have died in Bangladesh’s worst-ever outbreak of dengue, officials said Tuesday, as overburdened hospitals struggled to treat thousands of patients.

Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne viral infection, which causes flu-like symptoms but can be deadly if it develops into a haemorrhagic fever, usually occur in the South Asian nation during the monsoon season between June and September — but this year the disease has reached epidemic proportions.

More than 44,000 people have been admitted to hospitals with the illness since January, including some 2,100 on Monday alone, said health ministry official Ayesha Akhter.

“We have confirmed 40 dengue-related casualties so far to Monday,” she told AFP.

Local media put the number much higher, reporting that the death toll passed 100 last week.

The week-long holiday marking the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha has seen hundreds of thousands of people leaving Bangladeshi cities to return to their family homes in the countryside, raising concerns that the disease will spread further.

The country’s health minister said the outbreak was “gradually reducing” while inaugurating an emergency dengue ward at a public hospital in Dhaka this week.

For the first time on record, holidays for all public health workers have been cancelled to help respond to the crisis, said health ministry director-general Abul Kalam Azad.

“It is getting very tough to cope up with the amount of work pressure,” one medical officer told AFP.

AFP

Ten Dead After Bangladesh Train Strikes Wedding Party

 

At least 10 people were killed in a northwestern Bangladesh town after a train hit a wedding party van at an unmanned crossing, officials said Monday.

The Dhaka-bound train hit the van in Ullahpara, some 145 kilometres (90 miles) away from the capital, as 14 people were returning home from a wedding ceremony, local police chief Koushik Ahmed said.

As the van neared an unmanned railway crossing without noticing the rushing train approaching, the crash occurred leaving eight people including the bride and the groom dead on spot.

READ ALSO: 14 Killed In India Building Collapse

“Another two (injured) died in the hospital and the rest were injured,” he told AFP.

Fatal railway accidents are common in the South Asian country where some 40 percent of the approximately 2,500 rail crossings are unmanned.

According to police, nearly 6,000 people died in railway accidents on the country’s 2,800-kilometres (1,730-mile) rail network in the last six and a half years.

AFP