Bangladesh Struggles to Resurface From Storm. SEEKING RELIEF
| DHAKA, BANGLADESH
Destruction and un-certainty surround more than 130,000 people in Bangladesh, two weeks after a tornado swept through the central part of this country. And even as the government, with the help of foreign donors, struggles to recover from the disaster, there is fear that a recent drought may push much of northern Bangladesh toward imminent famine.
The tornado, which claimed more than 1,000 lives, caused widespread damage to the staple rice crop and fruit trees. The damage has been particularly cruel for residents of the central Manikganj area, coming only six months after they had lost their rice crop to massive floods.
``We now spend our days waiting for relief goods to arrive,'' said Abdul Hye, a watch repairer. ``We cannot work because we have lost even the tools of our work [in the flood].''
According to Robin Needham, an official with the American relief organization CARE, the affected population will need assistance for a least the next six months - until the next harvest.
``These people will have to helped in every way to start life afresh, from rebuilding their homes to getting fresh supplies of clothing and food,'' Mr. Needham says.
In one village, a man who had just received rice from government relief workers shrugged.
``What shall I do with this?'' he asked. ``I shall not be able to cook the rice because my stove has been destroyed and my cooking utensils have been carried off by the wind.''
In addition, ``the storm blew away nearly 48,000 huts,'' says Relief Minister Serajul Hossain Khan.
A visit to some of the tornado-affected areas showed people trying to gather what remained of their destroyed homes - not much more than a few bamboo reeds. Corrugated iron roofs lay on the ground, crumpled like bits of paper.
Mr. Khan says the government plans to rehabilitate the homeless and other seriously affected persons within three months.
The top priority is housing and supplying grain, he said. The government, local private charities, and the armed forces plan to construct 10,000 homes, and a Swiss relief group has offered to build 2,000.
But it remains unclear how the government of this poverty-stricken nation will fund such reconstruction and rehabilitation. The average annual per capita income here is $160.
Aside from the cost, logistics complicate relief efforts. One complaint is that only those who live near main roads in tornado-hit areas will get the aid, while those living in the interior areas may be by-passed. Some roads are in such bad shape that relief trucks are getting bogged down.