Counting the cost of Cyclone Roanu

تم النشر: 31 مايو 2016 12:38 CET

By Rajib Bhowmick, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

By the afternoon of Tuesday, 17 May, it was clear that Cyclone Roanu, a slow moving tropical storm tracking north in the Bay of Bengal, was headed directly towards the coast of Bangladesh. Although the exact time of landfall was still not clear, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society decided it was time to act.

By the morning of 19 May, all Red Crescent volunteers and local units in the 18 coastal districts which were at greatest risk from the storm were alerted through mobile text messages. The immediate priority was to move people at risk to safety as quickly as possible. An evacuation drive began in which Red Crescent Youth members assisted volunteers of the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) – a joint initiative of the government and Red Crescent – in evacuating more than 500,000 people in 14 districts over the following two days.

“It is not always easy to convince people about the level of danger posed by natural calamities. Sometimes they don’t want to move out,” said Didar Alam, deputy youth chief at the Bangladesh Red Crescent’s Cox’s Bazar unit.

On Saturday morning, 21 May, Didar and a three-member team went to the community of Kutubdia Para in Cox’s Bazar Sadar Upazila. At the time Cyclone Roanu was already crossing the coast of Bangladesh and people in the area still hadn’t evacuated.  The team soon learned the reason. They were reluctant to go because of a planned eviction of local residents to make way for an airport construction project.

“They were scared if they left their houses and the area was flooded by the tidal surge, they might never be able to return,” said Didar. “When the sea started entering around their homes, they realised the danger they were in and started looking for our volunteers.”

Several teams of volunteers eventually managed to evacuate more than 1,500 people from the locality using a number of trucks provided by the Red Crescent.

Between 20 May evening and 21 May afternoon Roanu swept through 14 coastal districts. Immediately, non-food items including tarpaulins, clothing, and water containers were dispatched from the Red Crescent’s headquarters in Dhaka destined for evacuees taking refuge at the emergency cyclone centres along the coast. Volunteers were also on hand to distribute dried food rations provided by the government.

Members of the Red Crescent’s National Disaster Response Team were deployed in six districts and within 24 hours had produced an initial damage assessment report. Simultaneously, Red Crescent volunteers began door-to-door identification of people most in need of assistance.

By Tuesday 13 May, relief items had been distributed to 3,000 targeted families (15,000 people) in the six districts. In addition, 1,000 families in three districts received cash grants of 3,000 Bangladeshi Taka each to help them purchase food and other essential commodities. The Red Crescent aims to reach another 2,000 families in six districts with cash grants. The operation has been supported through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Disaster Response Emergency Fund.

In the coming weeks the Red Crescent is aiming to increase the number of families it is assisting - providing clean water, monthly food rations and tarpaulins to meet emergency shelter needs.

“Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is now looking to everyone – both home and abroad – to extend a helping hand to those affected by this disaster,” said Khondker Jakaria Khaled, deputy secretary general of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. 

At least 24 people were killed and more than 139,000 families have been affected by the devastation wrought by Cyclone Roanu. ­­Some 700,000 people have been affected as the tidal surge along with heavy rainfall damaged or destroyed around 80,000 homes and had major impacts on the livelihoods of local people by submerging rice fields and standing crops

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