Sidr left many horror stories in its wake but none more chilling than the one that came out of Meher Ali Island. After the cyclone while the rest of the country was busy patching itself together, there were still people that needed to be rescued, not from the aftermath of the storm but from unimaginable human cruelty. Commander AZM Jalaluddin, the officer coordinating relief and rescue operations at Dublarchar reached the island a few days after the storm and was staggered to find 106 people on the island begging to be rescued. Most of them were cajoled into coming to the island with the promise of a good job and a decent salary. Their stories were all strikingly similar as most of them were picked up at rail stations across the country and eventually sold like cattle. They were then shipped to the island, where they were made to work as slave labourers. The men were forced to work long hours drying and stacking fish as well as doing guard duty at night; it was non-stop forced labour. Under inhumane working conditions they were beaten mercilessly when they failed to do a task accordingly and were fed no more than once a week. They were modern day slaves on a secluded island, and amidst the carnage of Sidr they reclaimed their lives. Aboard the BNS Turag, they sailed away to freedom.
Photos: Syed Zakir Hossain
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