Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My experiences of Cyclone Sidr

First Published

I woke up early in the morning on Thursday 15 November 2007. I felt bit cold. I open up some windows of my house. It was raining with strong wind. I heard last night about the Cyclone Sidr. It was then far away from coastal area of the country. To learn more about the cyclone I turned on my TV. From TV news I learned that the severe cyclonic storm code named SIDR with a core of hurricane winds advanced closer to the country’s southern coast.

I came to office facing rain and wind. I got an email and some satellite image of the Cyclone and its power from our Executive Director, Prof. Kathryn Ward. I learned that the cyclone Sidr is more powerful than the Cyclone Katrina that hit in the USA in 2005. We also learned that the cyclone might hit Dhaka and nearby areas. I got frightened. Due to rain and gusty wind students were not coming to NJ. I informed the ED. She told me that the Cyclone might hit Dhaka and asked me to go home and keep the office closed on Friday.

On the way to my residence I talked with many people about the cyclone who said that this cyclone might be more dangerous than the cyclone of 1970 that killed thousands of people of Barisal, Bhola and Patuakhali area. My fear was increasing to hear it. I was thinking how the lives of thousands of people of the coastal areas will be saved where we do not have enough cyclone shelters.

I was also thinking about my sisters who are living in Barisal and Cox’s Bazaar. I phoned to my younger sister who living at Cox’s bazaar. My younger sister Reba informed me of the cautionary signal number 9 that was hoisted over there. She requested me not to worry about them as they are living in building. Then I phoned to my youngest sister Keya who is living in a village of Barisal district. My youngest sister informed me that it was raining over there with strong wind. She did not know much about the Cyclone as she could not turn on her TV as there was no electricity. I informed her about the cyclone and asked her to be careful..

In the evening it was raining heavily and strong wind was blowing over the city. I turned on the TV and learned that the cyclone Sidr is going to hit the coastal area of Barisal, Patuakhali and Khulna within two or three hours. People of the coastal area were asked to take shelter in cyclone centers. At about ten pm I heard from news bulleting that central part of the Cyclone Sidr was crossing the Khulna Barisal coastal area over the Bolleshwar river.

Due to strong wind electricity was cut off at about 10:15 pm. Then I went to bed but could not sleep as the roaring of the wind was increasing. I was in a building but I could hear the roaring. There were some tin shed house in front of my house and there was a big and high Ucaliptus tree in front of one of the house. I was thinking that the tree might break or fell down and it might cause of great damage of the house if it fell on the house.

Roaring of the cyclone was increasing. At 2:00 am I got a phone call from my eldest sister who was in her sister’s house at Barisal city. She informed that they were in great danger. The roof of the house (tin shed house) was flown away by the cyclone and somehow they were saved and took shelter in her daughter’s father-in-laws house. Cyclone is becoming stronger gradually. She also informed me that her village house was seriously damaged by the cyclone. I phoned my youngest sister in village. She informed me that she is safe but many trees were broken and fallen down by the Cyclone. One big tree fell on the Mosque near by our house and seriously damaged. She was crying in fear of more damage. I requested her not to lose her courage.

At about 2:30am I heard a big sound outside. I looked outside and saw that the Ucaliptus tree had fallen down on a tin shed house and people are shouting. Later I heard that no people died as it fallen on one side of the house. Any way god saved many peoples’ lives. I thought to take some picture of the fallen tree and house in the morning. The tree was gone early that morning.

Since there was no electricity I could not turn on the TV or Radio all day long (Friday). We could not contact cyclone affected people as we could not get the mobile charged. Those who had mobile charged before could contact with their relatives. Finally, I bought a news Paper (Daily Ittefaq). I learned the coastal areas of the country (specially Barisal, Bhola, Borguna, Patuakhali, Pirojpur, Bagerhat, Satkhira) were almost destroyed by the cyclone Sidr and it killed hundreds.

So we were detached from the world. At night Dhaka city became ghost city. We did not have electricity, no water; we could not take bathe also many people could not cook as they did not have water. To do household works we had to buy candles with double price as the supply was less than necessity. Some how; we passed the night. On Saturday morning we got power supply and water. We got our mobile charged and could open TV.

Every day the numbers of reported dead increases and private channels report higher numbers than BTV (government channel). This morning (Monday) I learned from private TV news bulletin that more than 3000 people were killed by the cyclone. Thousands of people are homeless. They do not have food, clothing, and shelter. They do not have pure water. People are suffering from diarhoea and other water born diseases. Thousands of livestock drowned.

Govt is continuing the relief and rescue activities which are not sufficient. Govt relief and rescue teams did not reach to all the affected areas. Army, Navy and air force are working in govt relief activities. They are dropping relief packets from helicopter. People are fighting for the relief packets because the relief is not sufficient for the affected people. Three or four people are getting relief out of ten and what they are getting is much less than their need.

I saw in TV news that that some people are being buried with the cloths that they wore but people could not collect cloths ( Kafoner kapor) for the dead people. Dead people are still found floating in water and or lying in jungle. People are crying for their dead and missing relatives. They are thinking how they will survive? Fishermen have lost their boats, nets. Farmers have lost their crops. They do not have seeds, bull/buffalos, or fertiliser to cultivate. No house, no food, no shelter. Some of them will get some food or some cash for the time being. But they will have to live long without any help. But they will continue hoping that their missing relatives will come one day. They are crying and the wind is becoming too heavy to hear them crying.

From my observation and previous experiences I can say that many people of the coastal area were not informed about the cyclone and its power. People did not understand its destructive power. They did not go to the shelter. Actually the cyclone shelters that were built for the coastal area people were not sufficient to keep all the people.

We are getting different statistics of death from Govt or non Govt media. I think it will go up to ten thousand or more. Thousands of people are still missing. No one can say whether they are alive. Probably we will not get the statistics ever. The government promises investigations into accidents and disasters, but then no reports are released and no real steps taken to protect people. But accidents and disasters are continuing and killing hundreds of people’s lives every year. How is it? We should think and take necessary step to get rid of these reoccurring problems.

In the year 1970 about six lac people were killed by the cyclone. Govt. weather office/ media could not warn the people as they do not have modern equipments and communication facilities as we have now; still we are losing thousands of peoples lives. Why we are losing lives of people who are living in the coastal areas and earning money for the country through their different works. If the country can not save them, give shelter in any crisis why they are allowing them to live in those unsecured areas?

Now it is time to think about the people of the coastal areas. We need to make them aware of any cyclone/flood/Tsunami and any other disaster. B.Govt should make sufficient cyclone shelter for the people of coastal area. Our Govt. needs to make standby rescue teams so that they can do the things as and when needed. We can take loans for making park, high raised building etc but we can not save the lives of our people by making sufficient cyclone centers. How is it? We know that the world climate is changed and we might face different cyclone, tsunami, Earthquake etc in the up coming days/years. But we need minimum safely that we can expect from the govt.

We need to save the affected people of the coastal area first. They need food, Clothing and shelter. We should tell the people of other countries/donor agencies about the actual situation of the cyclone affected people for assistance so that they can help and save thousands of lives.

Ekushe and my thought

First Published

Thousands of books, articles and poems were written on Ekushe (21st February-International mother language day). And also we see many seminar, symposium on it. People can see/read what happened that day in the year 1952, how many people sacrificed their lives to establish their mother tongue through these books, articles, TV news, news papers, seminar, symposium etc.

I would like to say probably we have forgotten why they have sacrificed their lives. What we see everywhere? People have started to talk in English or Hindi or other languages where they could easily talk in Bengali. Talking in English has become a fashion of our young generation. If they practice talking in English that’s fine but sometimes it seems they are showing others that they can talk in English and also feeling proud and ignoring Bengali language (their attitude prove that). I think people should talk in English or other languages where necessary but not everywhere. I would never discourage people to learn English as it is international language. We must learn English to develop ourselves and it is also needed for our country’s development and at the same time we should not forget to learn our own language Bengali (Bangla). To develop our Bengali literature and establish Bengali language we need to translate many books, articles and journals in Bengali that are written in other languages.

To acquire more knowledge people can/should learn different language specially English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic etc who have money and other opportunities. People also can learn culture, music, religion, politics etc of other countries. In these way people can compare with their own things, can add more what is good or omit what is not good.

Few months ago I went to visit one of my relatives house. They are very rich and also educated. Some of their family members live in England. One of their daughters came from England and for her honor they arranged a party where I was invited. Mother of that girl told me that her daughter can not speak in Bangla (Bengali) and she was talking like it is her pride. I just told, “Is that so?” I could not show how much I was surprised and shocked. Learning other languages is good but not forgetting own language. People can feel proud of learning many languages but what is it when people forget or stop learning his/her own language, forget own culture? I never heard about a boy or girl who has come from England or America and is living in Bangladesh or other countries but forgot his/her own language (English).

Finally I would like to say people should learn their own language first and maintain their own culture.

Memorable day of my life

First Published

Few months ago, I went to my native village to see my sick mother. My mother was very much happy to see me. She forgot that she was sick. She was asking me about every body in Dhaka. I told her that all are ok over there. Then she again asked me what I would like to have for dinner. I told her that nothing special is needed for dinner. I then wanted to know from her whether she would like to have something like; fruits or anything. My mother told me that her heart is filled to see me. She needs nothing else.

Any way, I was going to nearby Bazaar to buy some fruits, fish and some other essential commodities. On the way to the bazaar I heard a voice behind me. Some one was calling me. I looked behind and saw an old man whose hair and beard were almost white. He looked like an old man of sixty. He asked me “Kemon acho Rafiq?” (How are you Rafiq?). I said, “Bhalo achi” (I am ok) and I also asked him, “Apni kemon achen?” (How are you?). He said ‘Bhalo’ (ok) in reply. And then he asked me, “Why I am calling him Apni (you).” Actually there is a difference between Apni and Tumi in Bengali; though it is same in English. In Bengali we use “Apni” for some one who are elder and “Tumi” for those who are younger. “Amare chinte paro nai?” (“Couldn’t you recognize me?” he said”). I said, “Na (no), I am sorry.” Then he told that his name is Selim. Still I could not recognize him. After that he told me that I must recognize him if he tell me a story of my childhood. I said, “Please tell me”. He told me, “Just try to remember we used to climb a Rain tree and jump down into the canal water.” Hearing it I remembered a terrific memory of my childhood and also could recognize him. I exclaimed with joy, “Oh my God! You are that Selim who saved my life?” He then said “khushi hoilam je tumi amare chinte percho. Ami tomare bachai nai. Allah tomare bachaiche”. (I am very glad to hear that you have recognized me. I did not save you. The almighty saved you.). I said “Please forgive me, I could not recognize you”. I also said “Shame on me, I forgot you who saved my life.” Then he said, “Eta hotei pare (it can be happen), onek din aager kotha (it was the event of many years ago).”

I remembered what happened that day. I, Selim (my play mate at my childhood) and some others (I can not remember their names) were playing a nice game. We were climbing a Rain tree (beside a canal, in front of our village house) and were jumping down from the high branch of the tree into the canal water. It was my turn, so I was about to jump. But suddenly Selim caught me tightly and said “Laph dis na, niche nouka” (Do not jump; there is a boat down in the canal). I did not see when a boat came under the tree, where we used to jump. I stopped jumping and looked down and was trembling in fear. If I would jump I must got injured seriously or die. Selim saved me from a great danger that day. I embraced him and thanked once again. I then asked him “What happened to you? You look like an old man.” He told me “It’s a long history, I will tell you about it sometimes later”. He told me “Let’s go to a tea stall, I will be happy to have tea with you”. We went to a tea stall and were having tea. At that time a young man of 20/25 years old came to him and said, “Baba (Father), some people are cutting our paddy; we must go to the field”. Then Selim told me “Rafiq kichu mone koris na, Amar ekhon dhan khete jawa dorkar, Ami pore toke shob bolbo (Rafiq never mind, I need to go to my paddy field. I will tell you my story later”. Ami bollam, “Accha jao, Allah Hafez” (I said, ‘ok’ go, God be with you). The next day he came to our house and told about his life. I will tell his story sometimes later.