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Saturday, October 13, 2012
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Long wait at coasts

Many fishermen go missing; storm death toll rises to 25; disaster minister insists weather signal properly given

People yesterday try to remove a large tree that fell on the Madhyam Char Kakra High School in Companiganj of Noakhali during Thursday's storm that swept through several districts. Photo: Zobaer Hossain Sikder

Families of hundreds of fishermen missing since Thursday's storm are anxiously waiting in the coastal areas for them to return. They said they had been living in the open without food and drinking water since the storm.

The death toll from the storm rose to 25 yesterday with three more bodies recovered in Noakhali.

Rescue trawlers have been sent in the Bay in search of the missing fishermen and trawlers.

People from different affected areas said they were yet to receive any relief.

Abdul Khalek of Char Elahi, one of the five unions affected under Companiganj upazila in Noakhali, said like many of his neighbours, his house was also damaged by the storm and they all had been living under the open sky since, reports our correspondent from Char Elahi.

The powerful storm lashed several upazilas of Noakhali, Bhola, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar early Thursday. It damaged scores of thatched houses, uprooted trees and snapped power connection and road communications in many areas.

Meanwhile, some 100 fishermen of Borguna, Patuakhali and other districts returned home yesterday. A few hundred more are yet to come back, said fishermen's families and district authorities.

The people of the affected areas said they were unaware of the storm. This raises questions about the role of the Met Office before any natural disaster.

However, Disaster Management and Relief Minister AH Mahmood Ali yesterday said the fishermen had been instructed to go to safe shelters from the sea but they did not pay heed to it. “Had they returned abiding by the Met Office instructions, the death toll from the storm could have been less,” he added.

Mahmood was speaking at a press briefing on “International Day for Disaster Reduction”, scheduled to be observed today.

The minister said the government had already sent 700 tonnes of rice and Tk 20 lakh in cash as relief for the affected people in Bhola, Noakhali, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar.

Director of Bangladesh Meteorological Department Arjumand Habib, who also attended the press briefing, said the storm was caused by a depression; it was not a cyclone.

Meanwhile, three more bodies of storm victims were recovered in Noakhali -- two in Hatia and one in Subarnachar -- yesterday morning. This raised the death toll in the district to 15, adds our Noakhali correspondent.

Fifty fishermen of the district were rescued yesterday while around 50 more on 12 trawlers are still missing.

At least 65 fishermen of Patuakhali and 30 of Charfassion and Monpura in Bhola are missing, report our correspondents from those districts.

Golam Mostafa Chowdhury, president of Borguna Trawler Owners' Association, said they had sent several trawlers in the Bay to search for the missing fishermen.

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