Sirajul Hossain

Photographer & Naturalist

Sidr in Sunderban: The Faces of Sidr…

Posted by sirajul on November 29, 2007

Super Cyclone in Bangladesh

 

The Faces of Sidr…

 

_mg_5759-01.jpg A worried mother

Retired old head master from the local school hold my hand and burst into tears, said “We do not need anything sir, just listen to our horrible story and how we survived that night. If it would stay fifteen more minute, we wouldn’t be standing here.”  His wife said, sir, we are respectable people here, we are shy to ask anything from anybody, there are no food in the house. We do not know how to feed those children from tomorrow. Our boys and girls cannot go to the river bank and struggle for the relief, they are not used to. The same said another old guy, claiming he was the doctor in the village but now lost everything. A man came out, who had a poultry firm having 3000 chicken. All died and buried in front of his house. He said with a pale smile, “There is no difference between rich and poor anymore here, the cyclone made us all equal”.

 _mg_5868-01.jpg Still cannot forget the horror

There were no different stories from 302 houses we visited having 1650 people living. They are grateful and equally surprised that they are still alive. Mother was standing numb in front of the wreckage of the nice wooden house. When the water came in and the roof of the house was taken away, she tried to move to the school building just in the other side of the road. Suddenly the road broke and powerful current took away both her children from her hand, she did not find them yet. She does not believe that they are dead, she will be waiting for them, may be all her life, who knows. Another woman said, as the water rose, she and her neighbor staying in the same house guessed that they are not safe anymore. She put her neighbor’s three month old baby in a cooking pan and covered it with a big bowl and kept her floating on the water. They themselves climbed up on a tree and tied up with the branches. The mother lost her consciousness immediately but finally all survived.

 _mg_4912-01.jpg Forester describing with tears

When you see those faces opens up: shocked, suffered and survived, it is very difficult to stay calm and work normally. Overpowering their beauty and richness, poverty and cruelty one thing is settling in every faces, a pale sad numbness. It becomes impossible to hide your own emotional reaction. I was very much surprised by seeing, even after seven days, nothing has changed! It is like time has stopped after that night. The fallen trees are still there on the roads and on the houses. The roofs are still broken as it happened. Ponds and domestic arenas are still filled with debris and leaf from the broken branches. At first I thought, may be these people are lazy, or they are trying to fool the outsiders by showing the devastation to get more relief. May be there are a handful of them doing that. But what I found out that most of them actually lost their thoughts. I saw men are sitting in a place for hours, woman are standing on the door forgetting everything. They do not know what to do, forgot what to think. Only they are hungry by their biological cycle and again the numbness returns. Many of them, you can say by looking at their faces, never imagined that they have to survive on other people’s giving, in their present life.

 _mg_5643-01.jpg Many cannot ask

Most people of these villages were boat owners, fishermen or forest dwellers like grass cutters. I know from my experience that these people are the hardest working people living in the edges of the forest. Almost all of them lost their boat and their nets. Some has land and other businesses. All the crops, mainly paddy became spoiled and the next crop will not come in their home until next year. Seasonal vegitables, another profitable crop has also no chance this year because of the saline deposition. It was all surprising, these people who lives the village and around never saw anything like these before. Only that old headmaster said he experienced something similar in 1965, but it was long forgotten.

_mg_5022-01.jpg  There were a kitchen once

We saw on TV how the most of the people including many govt. organizations are distributing relief goods. If we distribute goods by making a queue on the local market or on the river bank, a lot of people will come and will join in the queue. It is very difficult to keep the mob in control. Similarly it is impossible to prevent some smart guys who join the queue again and again. In this way many people who do not have any smart and dashing guys in the family actually do not get anything and starve. Also people who are living in the remote areas where it is difficult to access or far from any transport access, gets very less because news comes to them quite late.  Often the goods finishes when they arrive at the distribution point after a long walk.

_mg_5850-01.jpg Baby born just days befiore

To make our distribution efficient and to keep it under control we invented some methods. We wanted to reach to the places where communication is difficult. For that reason we entered the village from the South, from the sea side. Also we selected the area which has been severely affected by the storm and tidal surge. We wanted to reach to the middle class people who has no food in the house but unable to struggle for it. We made a small team who actually started walking house to house and discussed with the people living there. Then we made a note of what they might need and then we handed a slip to them to collect the material from the boat. In this way we believe we managed to provide people what they desperately need. This also made a humanistic connection between us and them and they found some people to talk and share their experience. We distributed mostly to Shoronkhola in Khurikhali and adjacent area. On our way we provided enough drinkable water and a good quantity of material to at least 10 forest offices and to many fishermen we found nearby. As you all know, like the villagers, forest offices also lost everything they had and their official supply was still to come.

_mg_5303-01.jpg      Most of the houses destroyed

I collected from myself, family, friends and colleagues about Tk.1,69,000.(Thanks to all of them), and about 12 sacs of used cloths, some dry food etc. Dr. Halder and Mr. Philip collected about Tk. 50,000, some cloths, 40 Boxes of Biscuit, 3 sacs of Chira, 1 sac of molasses, 50 blankets, etc.  Guide Tours added Tk. 1,00,000, and kindly provided their boat Chuti. Another friend donated Tk 30,000.

_mg_5854-01.jpg  Smile after getting the goods

With all those funds about Tk. 3,50,000 we purchased 3000 kg of rice, 20 sacs of Dal, Potato, Onion, Oil, Salt, emergency medicine etc. We made small bags containing 3kgs of rice and all other material proportionately. We also bought 300 cooking pots, 4 litre water carrying containeer about 650, plastic glasses and 10 ton of drinking water. Our “evaluate and issue” method worked beautifully and there were absolutely no chaos on distribution. I specially thank Mr. Bachchu and all the crew of Chuti for their enthusiastic support and hard work to make it all happen in a very organized way. Without their help it would be impossible to manage. 

_mg_5859-01.jpg  Long walk from the boat

All the relief operations by government and private are still insignificant and still they need more food supply to survive and to return back to work. Baby food is urgent as well as support for drinking water system restoration, house building and support for business and cultivation is also necessery. We are planning for another trip soon. 

_mg_4650-01.jpg  Katka, the graveyard

 

I will write about Sunderban in another post.

Thanks to all and specially to those who supported by their heart and hand.

 

 

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