Vol. 5 Num 797 Wed. August 23, 2006  
Star Chittagong

Two lakh live in high-risk areas of cyclone-prone Sitakunda
Insufficient number of cyclone shelters, poor maintenance of the existing ones and absence of plan for setting up more shelters remain a matter of concern

About two lakh people live in high-risk coastal areas of Sitakunda, which is prone to cyclone damage.

Insufficient number of cyclone shelters, poor maintenance of the existing ones and absence of plan for setting up more shelters remain a matter of concern for them.

The people, who frequently witness loss of life and properties in natural disaster, fear large- scale devastation and huge loss if there is any repetition of the cyclonic storm of April 29, 1991.

With only one cyclone shelter for 5,000 people, any strong cyclone or tidal upsurge will threaten the survival of many lives, local people said.

The administration, however, is quite indifferent to the menace, they added.

After the April 29 cyclone that left a huge trail of devastation and loss of lives and two other cyclones that hit the coastal area in 1994 and 1997, only 52 cyclone shelters were constructed in the upazila by the government so far.

Of the shelters, 11 are at Syedpur Union, seven at Baraiyadhala, four each at Sitakunda municipality, Barabkunda, Bhatiary and Bansbaria, eight at Muradpur, five at Kumira, two at Sonaichhari and three at Salimpur Union. They were constructed with the financial assistance from different donor countries, including Japan and Saudi Arabia.

With each of them having a capacity of accommodating only 60 to 70 people, they can provide shelter to some 3500 people during the natural disaster, said the local people.

More than 100 such shelters are required to save the people of this coastal area during the natural disaster.

People of Syedpur, Kumira and Muradpur narrating their nightmarish experience of '91 cyclone said if such a cyclone hits the area once again the causalities will exceed the previous record.

They said population of the locality has increased geometrically though the number of shelter remained unchanged.

"We need more shelters in the upazila to avert major causalities during any natural disaster," said Mohammed Yunus of Bara Kumira, who experienced the 1991 cyclone.

On the other hand, condition of most of the existing shelters is very bad and facing manifold problems, sources said.

Though the shelters are housing primary schools, they lack water, power and sanitation facilities, they added.

Lack of proper maintenance is causing damages to the shelters where the doors and windows are getting worn out and the buildings decaying beyond measure.

Untended by the authorities concerned, criminals are cashing on the situation and using the shelters as their safe dens.

A local schoolteacher of Guptakhali under Muradpur Union preferring anonymity said some local musclemen and drug peddlers gather at the shelter (Guptakhali Cyclone Shelter) in the evening everyday.

They carry out unsocial activities, including use and peddling of different drugs, at the cyclone shelters, said the teacher.

District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer (DRRO) in Chittagong Md Bazlul Hyder Patwary said "We have sent a proposal for repairing the existing cyclone centres to the government and we have a plan to increase the number of shelters.

He admitted the miserable condition of the centres.

A cyclone shelter in Sitakunda. PHOTO: STAR