May 5, 2006

Nearly 100 hurt in Bangladesh electricity protests

DHAKA (Reuters) - Nearly 100 people were injured in clashes
in Bangladesh on Friday when police tried to break up a
demonstration against water and electricity shortages.

Police fired teargas shells and used batons to evict
thousands of people squatting on a highway linking the capital,
Dhaka, with the port city of Chittagong, demanding adequate
power supplies to run their irrigation pumps.

A witness said a local legislator, Mohammad Slahuddin,
tried to persuade the protesters to end their sit-in on the
highway, but was jeered away by a stone-throwing crowd.

"The people have just gone wild and are attacking anyone
coming on their way," said a police officer.

The violence spread when activists of the ruling Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) attacked the protesters, witnesses

An number of vehicles, including several air-conditioned
buses, were damaged in stone-throwing, they said.

A highway police outpost was attacked and burned. The
protesters ignited bonfires on several spots on the highway.
Ten policemen including a senior officer were injured.

Authorities have largely withdrawn police from the spot,
apparently to defuse the anger of the protesters. "It is not
often possible to restore order when everyone turns unruly,"
another police officer said.

Most areas in Bangladesh including Dhaka have been without
power for several hours each day. There is also a shortage of
clean drinking water in the capital city of 10 million and most
other parts of the country.

At least 20 people have been killed since January in
clashes with police in the northwestern area of Kanshat which
has emerged as a focal point of the protests against power

The total nationwide power generation is 3,000 megawatts
against demand of 4,500 megawatts, an official of the
state-owned Power Development Board said.

Out of Bangladesh's nearly 60 power generation plants, 25
were out of operation due to mechanical faults, the official