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Relief in Bangladesh as cylone passes by

24 May 2013


Waterlogged: roads in Dhaka were affected by the cyclone's heavy rains

Waterlogged: roads in Dhaka were affected by the cyclone's heavy rains

THE Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has "expressed gratitude to the Almighty" after a cyclone that was predicted to affect 8.2 million people passed without "any significant impact".

Last week, the United Nations warned that 8.2 million people were at risk from Cyclone Mahasen in Bangladesh, Burma, and north-east India. The Bangladeshi government evacuated almost a million people from coastal areas, and in Burma more than 166,000 people were relocated.

The storm struck the Patuakhali district, on the Bangladeshi coast, on Thursday night, but it quickly weakened. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Friday that the region was spared "any significant impact".

The government of Bangladesh reported six deaths, however; and Christian Aid reported that 14 people had been killed in the country, and 46,000 homes destroyed.

Fears in Burma were centred on Rakhine State, where displaced Rohingya Muslims are living in camps after intercommunal violence erupted last year (News, 9 November). Many refused to leave the camps. On Tuesday, at least 50 Rohingya Muslims drowned after boats evacuating them capsized.

On Friday, the acting country director for Oxfam in Burma, Jane Lonsdale, said that the communities of Rakhine remained "very vulnerable, particularly the 140,000 displaced people living in camps, some still in tents. This is only the beginning of the monsoon season: people face heavy rain and potentially more storms. The international aid community has been highlighting for many months now the need to relocate those people living in low-lying camps with poor shelter; nothing has changed in the respect - it still needs to be urgently addressed."

Christian Aid released £100,000 to support the emergency response of its partners in Bangladesh. More than 1000 people sought refuge in schools used as emergency shelters, and which World Vision helped to build.

Tearfund's Country Representative in Bangladesh, Suchitra Behera, said on Thursday that the charity's partners were contacted by the government to be on standby: "It's a great testimony that the Church is known by the government as one of the first places to call on for support in such situations."

This week, a conference on disaster risk-reduction was held in Geneva. The Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, called on the international community to "intensify their commitment and support to the scaling up of our disaster-risk-reduction and climate-change-adaptation measures."

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