Of Sea and Men

June 16, 2016

How a village of 800 people at the edge of Bay of Bengal continues to live after surviving cyclone Roanu


The poor family of day labourer cum seasonal fisherman Abu Saleh has been living at the edge of Bay of Bengal ÔÇô Premashia village in Banshkhali upazila of Chittagong ÔÇô for several generations.

The relationship between Saleh ÔÇô or for that matter, all the 800 people who live in the village ÔÇô and the sea is bittersweet. For them, the sea is the sole source of income. At the same time, it is also the source of some of their worst woes.



This thatch-roofed bamboo structure at the edge of the sea at Premashia village in Banshkhali upazila of Chittagong used to be a proper house before Roanu hit


For 28-year-old Saleh who lived with this wife, mother and father, Roanu ÔÇô that swept the coast of Bangladesh on May 20-21 and affected more than 1.3 million people in 14 districts ÔÇô was the deadliest. Not only has he lost his meagre means for a living but also lost his father in the unusually high tidal surge that the cyclone triggered.

ÔÇ£When the tidal surge came, I and my parents tried to stay afloat by clinging to water containers. The strong surge washed us a long way into the sea. I and my mother never loosened our grip on the container. But my father couldnÔÇÖt hold on,ÔÇØ said Saleh, weeping.

As people living at the edge of the sea, SalehÔÇÖs family and neighbours know how the sea behaves during cyclones. But Roanu was different.

ÔÇ£We have seen ÔÇÿsignal sevenÔÇÖ cyclones before. But we have never seen such high tidal surge during a cyclone of this intensity,ÔÇØ Saleh said.



Saleh, in sky blue shirt, receives cash for food from a team of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

According to Md Nurul Amin, assistant director at the Disaster Response Department of BDRCS, this happened because of a rare coincidence of three natural phenomenon all happening together: full moon, high tide in the sea, and the cycloneÔÇÖs landfall.

ÔÇ£Together they are called the ÔÇÿsynchronisation peak of a cycloneÔÇÖ. That caused the unusually high and devastating tidal surges in many areas although the warning signal was not very high,ÔÇØ said the veteran disaster response expert, who recently worked at the Premashia village as a member of the BDRCS National Disaster Response Team (NDRT).

Read how strong winds during RoanuÔÇÖs landfall bulldozed an entire village in Bhola.

SalehÔÇÖs family was already a near-destitute one ÔÇô the only land they owned was that of their homestead. The unusual tidal surge destroyed their home and washed away the fishing boats and nets ÔÇô their only means for a living. So, there is no food; no shelter.


BDRCSÔÇÖs response

The family is currently living under the shade of a tarpaulin that has been given to them ÔÇô and 239 other families in the village ÔÇô by Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS). Each of these families has also been given Tk3,000 as cash for food which would last for about 10 days.

Read more about BDRCSÔÇÖs beneficiary assessment and relief distribution.

Most of these families have lost almost everything they had. So, they would need support again once the supplies and cash are exhausted. So, BDRCS has laid a plan to give them a further Tk5,000 cash so that they can sustain two more months.


A man tries to rebuild his house, which was destroyed by cyclone Roanu, on a bamboo frame at Premashia village in Banshkhali upazila of Chittagong. In the background is another partly-damaged house whose tin walls have been ripped apart by strong tidal surge


Same applies for Malek and Nasir, both fishermen, who have lost their fishing boat and fishing net respectively. They too are living under the tarpaulin and on the cash given to them by BDRCS.

Many people in the village made a living through fish farming by taking other peopleÔÇÖs ponds on lease. The tidal surge has not only turned all these ponds saline, but also washed away all the fish to the sea.

Members of BDRCSÔÇÖs National WatSan Disaster Response Team (NWDRT) de-watered two such ponds, meaning that these ponds were freed from salinity contamination at a cost of Tk20,000 each.

A medical team of BDRCS ÔÇô comprising a doctor, a paramedic and two volunteers ÔÇô gave medicine and treatment to the villagers for two days in the form of oral saline, antibiotics, painkillers, vitamins, etc.

Apart from food and shelter, these people are in immediate need of livelihood boost, as nearly all of them have lost their only means of living. BDRCS has also laid a plan to promote income-generating activities during the recovery programme, which will start after the relief operations are over.

BDRCS has launched a national fundraising appeal for helping these people, who are living in desperate states, and are requesting people with the capability ÔÇô both home and abroad ÔÇô to come forward in whatever way they can.


Visit the BDRCS donation page: http://www.bdrcs.org/donate