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Hundreds Killed by Bangladesh Cyclone

DW Staff (ah)November 16, 2007

Hundreds are reported dead and thousands are homeless after the cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh in the night from Thursday to Friday. The material damage is also enormous. Aid workers are distributing dried food and medicine.

A Bangladeshi woman who lost her hut in the cyclone weeps in Barishal, 75 miles south of Bangladesh's capital
A Bangladeshi woman who lost her hut in the cyclone weeps in Barishal, 75 miles south of Bangladesh's capitalImage: AP

The storm weakened as it approached the capital Dhaka located in the centre of the country but strong winds and floods still caused extensive damage and power cuts.

"Last night’s storm was very strong," said Hazera Begum. "It destroyed our hut. Papers, clothes, all our belongings are drenched. Around midnight, we fled with our children."

The most extensive damage as well as the highest death toll, have been reported from Bangladesh’s 15 coastal districts.

It was hard to access to information from some of the districts in question because power and telephone lines were cut. The death toll was increasing constantly and by Friday evening, over 1,000 dead had been confirmed, with the figures expected to rise.

"There is extensive damage in the regions, it’s almost impossible to imagine," said Nabiha Chowdhury, the spokeswoman for the Bangladeshi Red Crescent. "All the trees have been pulled up, temporary houses with corrugated iron roofs have been washed away, and fields have also been destroyed. The cattle perished. I tried to speak to a woman there who was so devastated that she couldn’t even talk."

Reminiscent of 1991

The cyclone reached the coast of Bangladesh late on Thursday. The wind speed reached 240 kph. It was thus about as strong as the one which hit Bangladesh in 1991, killing 141,000 people.

The region’s UNICEF director, Louis-Georges Arsenault, told German public media that the death toll would not be so high this time because of the warnings and the possibility to prepare better.

He said that because the eye of the cyclone had moved through the least populated region on Bangladesh’s coast, there was less loss of human life -- "a blessing".

Distribution of aid

Approximately a million people had already been evacuated before the storm hit the coast, saving many lives, according to UNICEF. The distribution of aid is now underway. Food, shelter and drinking water in particular are needed.

The Red Crescent spokeswoman Nabiha Chowdhury said that dried food would be bought immediately and added that 42,000 water purification tablets had already been distributed. "Due to the cyclone, there is salt water all over the coastal regions. There is an urgent need for fresh drinking water."

The cyclone Sidr was originally termed as a super-cyclone because it began as the second strongest type of cyclones. It then weakened to a tropical storm and stormed across Bangladesh to Northern India. The immediate danger is now over. But many regions are still under water.