Published: Friday, May 17, 2013

Patuakhali in a mess

A road, blocked by trees uprooted by cyclone Mahasen at Amtoli in Barguna yesterday, is partially cleared now after the cyclone shifted away from the zone. Photo: Anisur Rahman

A road, blocked by trees uprooted by cyclone Mahasen at Amtoli in Barguna yesterday, is partially cleared now after the cyclone shifted away from the zone. Photo: Anisur Rahman

Distressed at the sight of his twisted house, Amal Chandra Mitra had a vacant look. Already burdened with old age, the sexagenarian was trying in vain to figure out whether he would ever be able to rebuild the home ravaged by cyclone Mahasen.
Within moments, his face turned pale with perhaps a big question looming on his mind: how to maintain the six-member family. His only son is mentally challenged and so is unable to earn a living.
“Everything has been shattered, everything,” sobbed Amal, a tailor of Salimpur village in Kalapara upazila.
Salimpur is one of Patuakhali’s areas hit hard by Mahasen that swept through the coastal district, killing at least three people and damaging several thousand houses and trees along its trail of destruction.
Amal and his wife Shuchitra Mitra, however, are lucky to have survived narrowly. Sending the other family members to a neighbour’s house, the two elderly persons stayed in their tin-roofed clay house till 8:30am yesterday, thinking that the house would stand safe.
As the storm began unleashing its fury, they left the house for a cyclone shelter centre. But soon after they moved out, behind them they saw their house being torn apart.
“Now I don’t know what to do,” said Amal, after he returned to his house at noon yesterday.
Most of the unions in Kalapara upazila, located on the bank of the Andharmanik river, have witnessed similar destruction. Local residents say that at least 80 percent of houses in the areas were damaged some way or the other.
Some upazilas in Barguna suffered similar damages, leaving thousands of people homeless and with trees uprooted, though it caused fewer casualties than in the previous ones.
The highway stretching from Patuakhali to Kalapara was strewn with uprooted and twisted trees that looked like amputated limbs. Villagers were seen clearing out the trees after the rain stopped.
SM Rakibul Ahsan, mayor of Kalapara upazila, said, “We have not seen so many trees being uprooted or damaged even in cyclone Sidr and Alia [in 2007 and 2009].”
Rizia Begum lived with her husband Mostafa Gazi at Amtali upazila in Barguna. With all their savings, amounting to Tk 2 lakh, they built the house just few a months ago. The house is gone.
“It’s as if someone had thrown our tin roofs away somewhere. Most of our belongings are washed away by the floodwaters,” said Rizia while searching for her utensils in the water.
Barisal Divisional Commissioner Nurul Amin told The Daily Star that at least 3,000 huts had been damaged in Patuakhali alone.
“At least 800 huts were damaged in Bhola as per our primary estimate. Of those, 500 were in Charfassion and 300 in Manpura,” he said.
Amitav Sarkar, deputy commissioner of Patuakhali, said higher casualties could be prevented through taking preventative measures such as issuing prior warnings.
“Over 1 lakh people from different places took shelter at 360 cyclone shelter centres. Many people were forced to come to the cyclone centres,” he added.
Besides, he said, many hotels, schools, colleges, hospitals, and other government offices were kept open so that people could take shelter there.
Many villagers echoed his view, but they added that the death toll was low as the cyclone hit during low tide and therefore could not cause a tidal surge.
District administration officials said they would collect accounts of destruction today from the chairmen of the union parishads.