Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 45, Tuesday November 20, 2007


reality check

If not anything else, hurricane Sidr remains a ghastly reminder of how ill-managed we, as a nation, are on disaster management. The death count now rises over thousands and climbing, flags an ominous sign to those involved in the evacuation scheme. Of course, the death toll has sharply decreased compared to hurricanes of the past but human life can hardly ever be quantified to measure success.

The incessant rain last Thursday coupled with the fall of temperature took us aback. The power failure in the day that followed only added to the misery of city life.

As the storm brewed in the ocean, the inhabitants of the southern districts of the country were already on red alert; little did we realise that the fallout of Sidr will continue for days to come.

When life goes back to near basics, we realise our lack of vision to combat emergencies. “We had to buy half a dozen candles from Uttara, a good four miles from my home.

A few hours in to the black out and we ran out of candles. We were simply not prepared” says Sabiha. She further adds, “We were all eager to get the latest news of the hurricane but it was like living in a remote island with no telephone or electricity. In a desperate attempt to pass time, we decided to take a stroll on the street in front of the house, while others decided to sleep through the hours”.

Rashedul Haq, a telecommunications engineer says “A part of my family lives in Barisal and larger part in Chittagong . Baffled with the black out and totally out of network, I was worried sick about the safety of my dear ones. It was not until late Friday night that I could establish contact with them. I was relieved!”

Those living in Dublar Char, Barguna and adjacent areas of the coastline, the Sidr experience was even for basic- a matter of life and death. Near to a week of the hurricane, carcasses and human corpse still float in same waters. People now homeless and desperate for food and water, look at the heavens for provisions. Once in a while a chopper flies by giving them hope; for hope is all they have.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif

hell unleashed…

As if combating the insurgence of corruption and misuse of political power was not evidence enough of Bangladesh's resilience, the wrath of the Deity has struck. While cocooned in the safety of our lofty high-rise apartments, what we got was a mere flavour of its fury, it is a hideous thought that so many people had to be force-fed with its actual taste. The wind howled. And it meant every bit of its rage the high notes flagged. Trees were pulled out of the ground like bobby pins out of a sofa cushion, and livestock was killed. Consequently, those heavily reliant on agricultural and livestock farming witnessed their livelihood being swept away along with the uprooted trees and unhinged billboards.

Reports- particularly that published by MSNBC- hails this as the deadliest storm for the Country in more than a decade.1,100 people were killed, and the count continues. The cyclone winds- reaching 150 miles per hour as it swept inshore Thursday night- messed up the electricity and telephone lines, and knocked out the power lines, leaving millions of people in stark darkness.

Volunteers and local employees in various international organisations were deployed throughout Bangladesh, particularly to the areas most severely hit. World Vision has put together a seven-day relief packages for families that included rice, oil, sugar, salt, candles and blankets. The World Food Program further send rations for up to 400,000. Moreover, the International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent has provided US$223,000 in vital financial support from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support immediate, lifesaving response efforts. Volunteers from the Cyclone Preparedness Programme and BDRCS also helped in mobilising volunteers who in turn assisted in evacuating thousands and shepherding them to safety, using megaphones and drums on the night of November 15th. Makeshift shelters were set up, and often buildings like local schools were used to accommodate the evacuatees. Both BDRCS and the Red cross will soon be dispensing food relief, medical aid and water sanitation supplies and emergency rescue teams to the affected ones.

Debris from the storm blocked roads and rivers, restricting access to reach several areas. To clear the blockage, elephants have been employed.

At this stage, we hope that the emergency would pass and the deployment of relief would be effective. In any event, Bangladesh has proved its resilience before... And just like the time and time past, this too shall pass.

By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky
Photo: AFP


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