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Cyclone leaves thousands dead, millions homeless in Bangladesh

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Spear of Longinus
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« on: November 17, 2007, 04:34:04 pm »

Cyclone leaves thousands dead, millions homeless in Bangladesh

by Shafiq Alam
2 hours, 34 minutes ago
 


BARGUNA, Bangladesh (AFP) - Thousands of people are believed dead and millions are homeless and destitute after the worst cyclone in years tore through impoverished Bangladesh, officials said Saturday.

 
More than 1,723 people were confirmed to have died and the number was rising by the hour as soldiers and relief workers battled to reach the worst-hit coastal districts that were smashed late Thursday as cyclone Sidr roared in from the Bay of Bengal.

"We are expecting that thousands of dead bodies may be found within a few days," the deputy head of the government's disaster management office, Shekhar Chandra Das, told AFP in the capital Dhaka.

"We have not been able to collect information about casualties in many remote and impassable places due to the disruption to communications," he said.

In most areas telephone lines are down and roads blocked. Countless villages have also been blown from the face of the earth.

"The number of deaths so far is 1,723 and it is increasing," said major Emdadul Islam of the armed forces control room.

In one village, residents told AFP more than 100 people had died when the area was engulfed by a tidal surge pulled in by the colossal storm.

"A 20-foot (six-metre) wall of water wrecked the village of Charkhali and 30 more people are still missing," said local government official K.M. Abdul Wadud.

"The wind and the tidal surge were so strong that it churned up four kilometres (2.5 miles) of a tarmac road," added resident Anowar Hossen Khan.

The dead were being buried in a mass grave, villagers said.

Millions more were also said to be homeless.

"Village after village has been shattered," said administrator Hariprasad Pal. "Millions of people are living out in the open and relief is reaching less than one percent of the people."

Residents in southern districts near the coast bore the full brunt of the storm and told AFP of their terror as they were hit by wind speeds of up to 240 kilometres (155 miles) an hour, huge waves and suffocating rain.

Fulmala Begum, 40, said she was not warned to evacuate and had to take refuge under a bed with her husband and two children as the storm roared around her.

"Five hours later we found ourselves under a heap of tin roofs and two huge trees. Not a single house in my village was spared the catastrophe," said the woman, lucky to be alive but totally destitute.

"I have never seen such a terrible scene. It was like hell. I saw dozens of tin roofs flying into the air. Whole houses too," added local businessman Manik Roy, 50.

A district official said disaster-prone Bangladesh has suffered another "great human tragedy," adding that in Jhalokati district, 140 kilometres south of the capital Dhaka, every one of its 554 villages had been hit.

Jhalokati and the coastal district of Barguna, further to the south and on the edge of the vast Sunderbans mangrove forest -- the natural habitat of the endangered Royal Bengal tiger -- were among the worst affected areas.

"All the tin-built houses were blown away. Every household in the district has been affected," said deputy commissioner K.M. Rahatul Islam.

Experts described Sidr as similar in strength to the 1991 storm that triggered a tidal wave, killing an estimated 138,000 people. Another cyclone in 1970 killed up to half a million people.

But officials remained optimistic that this time the death toll -- while still high -- would be nowhere near that of previous disasters because of a network of cyclone shelters and an early-warning and evacuation system.

"If we had not taken people to the cyclone shelters, tens of thousands of people would have been killed," added Islam.

According to the government, 1.5 million people took refuge in shelters and other buildings as Sidr raced north towards the capital Dhaka before petering out in the northeast of the country.

Most of the deaths were caused by flying debris. Many people were also killed by trees falling onto homes made from bamboo and tin -- all that most people can afford in one of the world's poorest countries.

The navy has sent ships to affected areas with supplies of food, medicine and relief materials, officials said. Army helicopters were also carrying out air drops.

The European Commission, Britain, Germany and the United States expressed sympathy for the victims and pledged immediate support for the relief effort.
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Spear of Longinus
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2007, 04:35:14 pm »



A couple clears the debris of their collapsed house in Bagherhat, Bangladesh. Thousands of people are believed to have died and millions are homeless and destitute after the worst cyclone in years tore through impoverished Bangladesh.(AFP/Jewel Samad)
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2007, 04:37:11 pm »



Students of an Islamic school dry their books at Potuakhali, 152 kilometers (95 miles) south of Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007. A report of death toll from a savage cyclone in Bangladesh reached 1,795 on Saturday as military helicopters and ships joined rescue efforts in the wake of the deadliest storm to hit the country in a decade. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2007, 04:38:22 pm »



A mother in a veil takes her injured daughter to a hospital in Barisal district town, south west of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, November 17, 2007. Military ships and helicopters were trying on Saturday to reach thousands of survivors of a super cyclone that killed more than 1,600 people and pummelled impoverished Bangladesh with mighty winds and waves. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman (BANGLADESH)
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2007, 04:39:41 pm »



A woman collects corrugated iron sheets from her house in Mongla, Bangladesh. Thousands of people are believed to have died and millions are homeless and destitute after the worst cyclone in years tore through impoverished Bangladesh.(AFP/Farjana Khan Godhuly)
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2007, 04:40:56 pm »



A woman arranges her cyclone destoryed house in a village near Pirojpur, on the southern coast of Bangladesh. Thousands of people are believed to have died and millions are homeless and destitute after the worst cyclone in years tore through impoverished Bangladesh.(AFP/Jewel Samad)
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