1 June 2009

Bangladesh asks for foreign aid after cyclone

Half a million people in Bangladesh were still stranded
after the cyclone wiped out hundreds of homes.

KOYRA, Bangladesh (AFP) —Bangladesh said it was struggling to reach hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims and would seek foreign aid to rebuild scores of damaged homes and roads. The call for help came a week after Cyclone Aila battered southern Bangladesh and West Bengal in India, killing almost 300 people. Bangladesh's food and disaster management minister Abdur Razzak told AFP that some half a million people were still stranded after the cyclone wiped out homes and destroyed more than 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) of embankments. A military and civilian relief operation began soon after the cyclone hit, but many of the low-lying remote areas north of the Bay of Bengal were without drinking water. "We are struggling to ensure supply of drinking water to the worst affected areas," he said, adding lack of shelter was also a problem."We don't need any food or relief, but we are going to seek foreign aid to build embankments and cyclone shelters. We have to build the embankments immediately to protect people from salty water." The worst affected areas were experiencing daily flooding at high tide because the cyclone had washed away levees and embankments, he said. This was contaminating drinking water and more than a million people were suffering from diarrhea, according to medical officials. On Sunday doctors and charities called the outbreak a "humanitarian crisis" and warned it could spread across the southern part of the country. In Bangladesh, the death toll was 168 while in neighbouring India officials said 125 people had died as a result of the cyclone. Some 6.4 million families in West Bengal were living in the cyclone-affected area, an official told the Press Trust of India. State authorities were seeking more than 200 million dollars in aid from the central government to help to rebuild damaged infrastructure. The low-lying region frequently experiences tropical storms and cyclones during the monsoon season. In 2007, more than 3,500 people were killed, most of them in Bangladesh, when Cyclone Sidr lashed the same districts.