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Saturday, November 17, 2007
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Sundarbans bears the brunt of hurricane

Environmentalists and bio-diversity experts fear immense loss to the Sundarbans and its wildlife, as the brunt of hurricane Sidr was borne by the world's largest mangrove forest.

Sidr, with a ferocious wind force of over 220 kilometres per hour (kmph), hit the eastern parts of the forest, especially Chandpai range including Kochikhali, Kotka, Hiron Point, and Dublarchar, leaving a trail of severe devastation. The uprooted trees and destroyed houses on the edge of the forest are reminiscent of the devastation brought to the forest by the cyclone of 1988, sources said.

In 1988, according to official records, nine tigers and several hundred deer perished when a six feet high tidal surge accompanied by 160 kmph wind hit the Sundarbans. Several newspapers published photographs of the corpses of deer, tigers and other wildlife.

But the damage done to the forest by Sidr with its seven feet high tidal surge accompanied with a wind speed of over 220 kmph might be much worse than before.

Some experts said they fear many wildlife including, tigers, deer, crocodiles, wild boars, king cobras, and monkeys might have been washed away and perished under the weight of uprooted trees of the world natural heritage site. Sidr practically ruined the beauty of the Sundarbans, the experts observed.

In recent times more than 400 tigers and hundreds of deer were spotted in the Sundarbans, according to official figures of the forest department.

Some experts however differ with the official figures saying the real number of tigers there is no more than 250.

The experts said the Sundarbans bore the major brunt of Sidr, reducing the impact of it on the adjacent localities.

Dr Ainun Nishat, country representative of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Bangladesh, told The Daily Star that much of the wildlife of the Sundarbans might have been washed away by the tidal surge.

A forest officers working in Morelganj area said the situation there is very bad but he could not give an exact description of the situation inside the forest as he could not enter the forest in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.

An official of Red Crescent said many residents of Dublarchar and Shoronkhola were swept away by the tidal surge, 20 bodies of whom were recovered.

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