Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Cyclone Sidr

I just returned to Dhaka after visting Bagerhat, a Southern district of Bangladesh. Bagerhat is one of the districts severly affected by the cyclone Sidr which devasted large parts of the country during the night between Thursday and Friday last week. Also in Dhaka the cyclone was felt with heavy rains and winds disrupting electricity and phone and internet networks for days.

In the South it is reported that thousands of people died when their houses were destroyed by the winds. In the region we visited these last couple of days trees had fallen everywhere and electricity will probably not be back in months. A local ferry was thrown from the middle of the river far up on the shore by a 15-20 feet high tidal wave. Devasted people showed their totally destroyed homes, crying that they had nothing left. No food, no clothes for their children and no safe drinking water. We passed shelters where the local governemnt distributed 10 kgs rice per family and thay also had a small amount of money from the central governmnet to hand out to people in need. But 500 taka amounts to alsmot nothing under the circumstances, rebuildning a home would cost around 20 000 taka. Frustration was visible, both among local officals and all the people in dire need of assistance.

World Food Program, UN agencies and other NGOs have started their relief efforts and we watched as rice and bisquits were loaded on boats to be taken to the worst hit areas were there is no functioning infrastructure. The military supplied water pumps. Hopefully the international community will continue to respond to the needs as expressed by the Bangladeshi government for assistance in this very difficult situation. Just a few months back is the devastating flooding, people just started recovering from that catastrophy. One man told us that now the affected areas has been thrown back 20 years in time. Bangladesh is not a country who can afford such a backlash.

Pictures from the area will be posted tomorrow.

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