Via AlertNet, I just saw this missive from the Belgian relief group CARE, which is already on the ground in Bangladesh but realizes the magnitude of the problem is even bigger than expected. This is the best sense I’ve been able to get yet of conditions where the storm struck, so I’m reproducing in full:
Geneva, November 16, 2007–With Bangladesh reeling in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, CARE emergency teams are determining where their relief equipment and supplies can be most effective. CARE responded immediately after the super cyclone struck Bangladesh’s coast by moving equipment into the area to provide safe drinking water, and emergency items ranging from plastic sheeting to candles, and emergency food rations for at least 5,000 families, but the destruction caused by the storm has proven to be even more serious than originally predicted. Cyclone Sidr carried winds up to 250 kilometers an hour (150 miles an hour), and created a five-meter sea surge (15 feet) which completely obliterated three seaside towns. Authorities succeeded in getting 600,000 people into shelters before the cyclone slammed into Bangladesh, but some 3.2 million people live in the vulnerable coastal areas so casualties are inevitable.
The death toll from the storm has already risen above 600, and is expected to go higher. Communications have been completely cut in the worst hit areas, where many people were wounded by flying debris, and others are listed as missing. The true toll will probably not be known for several days.
“We are hopeful that emergency preparedness in place and quick action has successfully reduced the loss of human life” says Suman SMA Islam, CARE’s humanitarian assistance coordinator in Bangladesh, “but many people are now homeless, crops and livelihoods have been destroyed and this is going to put great pressure on the government, the economy, and the people themselves – particularly as this comes only a few months after floods devasted the northern part of the country”.
CARE was on the scene working with government authorities and local partners to provide needed relief supplies and safe drinking water. As the results of the initial assessments start to come in the concern is that, given the level of destruction caused by Cyclone Sidr, much more assistance may going to be needed as people try to piece their lives back together.
The good news is that, thanks to better preparedeness measures, we are not expecting a death toll like some of the previous ones in the history of this region. But the situation is bad enough as it is.
For more information on ongoing humanitarian efforts, I recommend ReliefWeb.