Saturday, April 18, 2009

Many offshore islands have no shelter

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Several lakh people living in the coastal areas of Bhola district are highly vulnerable to cyclones and tidal surges as the shelters constructed the purpose are too inadequate to accommodate the large number of people during natural disasters.

Around 1.5 lakh families living in chars (island) of high-risk coastal areas in seven upazilas under Bhola district are outside cyclone shelter coverage, said sources at Cyclone Preparedness Programme office in Barisal.

After super cyclone `Sidr' wreaked havoc in the southern region of the country in November 2007, the government took an initiative to build 20 cyclone shelter-cum schools in seven upazilas of Bhola district but it is too inadequate to meet the requirement.

According to the report of a survey conducted by district Red Crescent

Society, there are no shelter centres in Ramdaspur, Ramdevpur, Gameshpur, Char Sitaram, Baraipur, Char Pangacshia, Char Chakimara, Char Shyampur, Char Hossain, Gazir Char under Sadar upazila.

Same is the situation in Madanpur Char, Togbi, Medua, Neyamatpur, Bhavanipur, Hajipur under Daulatkhan upazila, Char Patila, Char Rizvi, Char Shamsuddin under Borhanuddin upazila, Char Nasrin, Char Mozammel, Char Tozammel, Char Luxmi under Tamijuddin upazila, Char Hasina, Char Alam, Char Ashraf, Char Sikender under Char Fashion upazila, Kalatolir Char and Dalchar under Monpura upazila.

Other char areas without cyclone shelters include Dhal Char, Char Kukri Mukri, Char Motahar, Char Sakuchia and Char Zahiruddin.

On an average, about 5,000 families live in each of the chars.

There are shelter centres at Char Zahiruddin under Tajumuddin upazila, Char Nizam under Monpura upazila, Char Kukurmari, Dalchar and Char Patila under Char Fashion upazila but their accommodation capacity is much less than the population.

Char Nizam has one cyclone shelter for six thousand people and Nijhum Dwip has four cyclone shelters for 20 thousand people.

For 1,04,000 inhabitants of Manpura upazila of island district Bhola, there are only 28 cyclone shelters and two matir kella (multi-storied mud houses) to accommodate only 22,400 people.

In Char Fashion upazila of the same district, only 15 cyclone shelters and 18 mud houses are available for its 4,15,520 residents.

According to Cyclone Preparedness Programme office, a typical cyclone shelter can accommodate around 800 people but as many as 3,000 people huddle in a centre when faced with the menace.

In absence of adequate cyclone shelters, the people in the coastal areas including Bhola district pass their days amid panic when there is warning for natural disasters like cyclone and tidal surge.

The situation is even worse in remote islands off the coast.

Construction of a large number of shelter centres is needed to save the large number of people from the menace.

Md Ershad Ali, an official at district Relief and Rehabilitation Office, said the department had not got any sanction for construction of more cyclone shelters in the coastal island areas.

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