Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Food, water reach devastated remote Bangladesh island

AFP , ASHAR CHAR, BANGLADESH

Thousands of people lined up patiently for food as a navy ship arrived at a remote Bangladesh island, bringing the first aid since last week's devastating cyclone.

Cyclone Sidr left this lonely outpost in the Bay of Bengal in ruins and villagers had received no assistance at all until now.

"We did not receive any food or relief from the government," said Rasana Begum, on a sandy beach where fishermen used to work drying fish.

Now everything is lost, she said.

RICE STORES GONE

"Dried fish worth millions of taka [tens of thousands of dollars] is gone. The rice that we stored for the few next months is gone and we have lost hundreds of family members," resident Abdul Gafur, 50, said.

Ashar Char, on a southern tip of Bangladesh's coastline with the Bay of Bengal, took the full force of the storm and suffered heavy casualties.

Some 241 people have already been buried and more than 500 are still missing feared dead, local government official Jahandir Alam said.

Despite the huge loss of life, five days after the disaster the people are no longer in mourning.

Instead, basic day to day needs have taken over as they wait for desperately-needed food. Now they are worried about their own survival.

"The last six days we spent cooking rotten rice," Gafur said, showing rice that was damaged by salt water during the tidal surge triggered by the cyclone.

NO HELP

"No boat came to us as most of them had been damaged or washed away. Even our market which before was full of food items has been wiped out," fishermen Ripon Molla said.

Along a 100km stretch of Bangladesh's coastline, where cyclone Sidr wiped out thousands of villages leaving countless families homeless, the fear of starvation now looms large.

"Our top-most concern is to keep these hundreds of thousands of poor people alive in the next couple of weeks," said Navy commander Bashir Ahmed, who is supervising the relief and rescue operation in the worst-hit Barguna district.

"These people are in desperate need of dried food, drinking water and clothes. If we fail it will be a catastrophe," he said.

"They have now become permanently dependent on food aid. And a majority of them don't even have utensils to cook food," he said.

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