“We are trying to stay afloat but we are drowning,” said 34-year-old Md. Nasim over phone around 12:00am on Thursday. He is from Char Shahjalal in Paschim Char Umed union of Lalmohan upazila in Bhola. Around 250 people of 70 families live there. Tentulia river flows around the hard-to-reach Char.
The people of the char (shoal) said they were not informed about cyclone Amphan. When their houses went under water due to high tide on Wednesday noon, they phoned the union parishad chairman and came to know about the imminent cyclone. But they had no other alternative but to remain on the char as it was not possible to leave their homes then.
The people of Char Shahjalal were not informed of the cyclone Amphan and Lalmohan Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Habibul Hasan Rumi was not even aware of the existence of Char Shahjalal.
The UNO said they had five trawlers waiting on Tentulia river to bring people to cyclone shelter centres but no one informed them about Char Shahjalal.
Md. Nasim of Char Shahjalal said the second high tide came around 5:00pm. That was more devastating. The water level was gradually rising as the night grew darker. At one point their beds went under water, the kitchen also went under water. The wind came faster. When it became tough to stay at home, he and his wife and children went in four small boats to a swamp in a nearby jungle. They passed the night in the boats there.
Peyara Begum, a 43-year-old mother of eight children and wife of Abul Kashem Majhi, was aboard a boat too,along with 40-45 others. She said they lived on the char as river erosion had destroyed everything. The boat tethered to the banks of a swamp in the jungle by the village. But the tether snapped in the gusty wind and was rocked violently. Fortunately it got caught up in jungle undergrowth. They passed the whole night in that situation. Children were wailing in fear but luckily there was no rain. Otherwise, she said, the situation would have been worse. They returned home when the water went down around 3:00am.
Abul Kashem Majhi said he passed the night with about another 150 people in a boat. Some stayed at home during the high tide, but every one on the char was awake the whole night. The water receded on Thursday morning. Around 60 homes of the village were completely destroyed. The storm surge destroyed their hearths and homes, crops and swept away fish of the ponds. At least 70 houses sustained severe damage in the cyclone.
Char Umed union parishad chairman Abu Yusuf said the people of Char Shahjalal were asked to take shelter at cyclone centres but they did not come.
Abu Yusuf also said crops and embankment of his union sustained a huge damages. At least 35 fish enclosures and 25 homes were destroyed. The amount of loss could be around Tk 6-8 million.
* The report has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza