Oxfam fears huge humanitarian impact as cyclone hits Bangladesh

By mborum

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BOSTON — More than 3.2 million people in coastal areas are likely to be affected by the cyclone that hit Bangladesh on Thursday, international aid agency Oxfam warned today.

According to initial reports, there has been massive destruction of homes, crops, and livestock, although the death toll was low. Power and communications have been totally disrupted by the cyclone, which swept up from the Bay of Bengal on the evening of November 15th with wind speeds of up to 150 mph.

Before the cyclone struck, around 1,000 volunteers from Oxfam’s Bangladeshi partner organizations helped to evacuate villagers.

Today, Oxfam is coordinating and sharing information with the Bangladeshi government. The aid agency has two teams assessing the damage caused by the cyclone, which is the largest to hit Bangladesh since 1991, when a cyclone killed 138,000 people.

Heather Blackwell, Head of Oxfam International in Bangladesh, said, “Many of Bangladesh’s poorest people live on sandbanks in the river delta, which can be easily flooded by tidal surges. A cyclone this strong can literally wash away the sandbanks and mainland areas, forcing families to abandon their homes, livestock and crops. The storm is so strong that many of those living farther inland could also be seriously affected.

“Working through local Bangladeshi organizations, we have sent hundreds of volunteers around the affected districts to warn and evacuate people.

“Over the last few years we have helped hundreds of villages to prepare for floods and tropical storms. Simple measures, such as having an evacuation plan and giving enough warning of approaching storms, can really save lives.

“The Bangladeshi government has also been proactive in issuing early warnings and evacuating coastal areas, and we are working closely with them on the relief effort.”

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