Cyclone Midhili: Coordinated relief and rehabilitation initiatives required

Prothom Alo illustration

There has been extensive damage in the coastal region from the gusty wind and rainfall due to the cyclone Midhili that passed over the Bay of Bengal on Friday. 

This was an exceptional cyclone. No other cyclone passed over the land area for such a long period of time before.

Till now seven people including four of a family have reportedly died from this cyclone. Four people died when a mud house collapsed in Morichaghona area in Hnila union of Teknaf. 

Meanwhile, incidents of a trawler capsize and 300 fishermen from 20 trawlers going missing in Patharghata upazila of Barguna were reported as well.

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According to the meteorological department and reports sent by Prothom Alo staff correspondents, tidal surges at least three to five feet higher than the usual tide had hit the low-lying areas in the coastal districts of Lakshmipur, Feni, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira as well as the islands and chars adjacent to them.

A cyclone right in the beginning of the Bengali month Agrahayan (late autumn) caused extensive damage to agriculture in the coastal area.

Often it’s noticed that the concerned department usually takes on some routine work following these sorts of natural disasters. For example, repairing the dilapidated roads quickly and distributing monetary assistance among the affected population. 

But, how would that operation be run? And who will measure the damages? The disaster management and relief ministry doesn’t have that much human resources to assess the damages. So, they just depend on the local administration.

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In these cases, no such activities can be noticed from local public representatives either. There are allegations that less affected people receive reliefs instead of the more affected ones in this bureaucrat-based relief operation.

Fast arrangements have to be made to resume the power connection in areas where the power supply had been severed. Power supply is of utmost necessity to keep local agriculture and industrial factories running apart from the household lifestyle. 

Power supply in the affected areas needs to be ensured as soon as possible. Then necessary agricultural items have to be delivered to farmers whose farmlands and seed beds have been damaged, so that they can start farming right away.

Family members of the missing fishermen are deeply worried. Hopefully, the coastguard and navy personnel would try their best to rescue the missing fishermen.

Policymakers of the government claim that Bangladesh has shown noticeable success in disaster management. But it won’t do if that success is limited to just post-disaster rehabilitation.

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If accurate information regarding the disaster can be provided beforehand, people from the areas in concern can move to safety.

The number of shelters built under government initiative is quite low in comparison to the necessity. The number of the shelters needs to be increased even more. In that case, the idea of establishing temporary shelters can also be pondered upon.

Hopefully, the disaster management and relief ministry would quickly assess the damages done in the cyclone hit areas and send necessary relief items to everyone who requires it. Sending relief items to all upazilas and districts as routine work won’t be enough.

Right now, it’s more important to reach agricultural items to the affected farmers rather than the relief materials. Hopefully, the local administration and the public representatives would take up a coordinated initiative so that none of the affected people are deprived of the relief and agricultural items.