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Deluged Bangladeshis hard pressed to find clean water

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The people of Mugdapara are swamped with water. But for many there is not a drop to drink. For more than two weeks, flood waters have covered this low-lying neighborhood in northeast Dacca and contaminated the water supply. Every day, hundreds of city workers and volunteers have collected clean water elsewhere in the city and carried it in large tanks and small containers, by truck, cart, and rickshaw, to the edge of the flooded streets. From there, it goes by boat to about 250,000 people marooned in the area.

``There is only stinking water in our wells. We cannot use it for cooking, washing, or drinking,'' said Mukeesa Khatum as she waded home with two gallon jugs for her family of five. ``We have brought our water this way ever since we were hit by the floods.''

As flood waters slowly recede across Bangladesh, this impoverished nation of 108 million faces a crisis: not enough clean water. City officials say that one-sixth of Dacca's 120 pumping stations are overrun with brown, muddy water from swollen rivers.

They predict that hundreds of thousands of people will be without clean water for weeks to come.

``In many areas, the water lines are under water,'' says Shafiuddin Ahmad, executive engineer of the Water and Sewerage Authority of Dacca. ``Where the water was over one foot, those tanks are contaminated.''

Many areas of Dacca are filled with mud and the stench of stagnant water and rotting garbage. Although government health officials deny that an epidemic is imminent, health workers in areas like Mugdapara say illnesses, especially diarrhea and dysentery, are spreading rapidly.

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