Friday, November 16, 2007

post Cyclone Sidr recovery

Some news BBC and NYT and blog reports are beginning to trickle in about the aftermath of Sidr, which flattened the Bangladeshi coast and moved on through Bangladesh before turning into a tropical storm. So far the death toll has been far lower than the previous big cyclone (600+ and rising) owing to early warnings, evacuations, etc., but given outages of the national power grid, blocked roads & debris, rescue workers are having a hard time reaching people. Dhaka experienced a Category 3 hurricane; friends reached via mobiles (cell phones) report that residents have had little or no power or water since the storm. Uncultured Project blogger Shawn has several posts of his experiences, including cheers when the electricity came on for an hour and the roar of generators in the streets. Signs of Bangladeshi resilience are everywhere, but the country and its people face a long-road to recovery owing to the needed reconstruction. Rumi and others write about the flattened and flooded crops, dead livestock, environmental damage to Sundarbans which took a direct blow, and repairing infrastructures.

Even before Sidr, Bangladesh had been going through political and economic struggles. Bangladesh is still in a state of political emergency with a civilian caretaker government backed by the military. Elections are not planned until late 2008. Essential food prices are up and even before the storm, the government admitted that it had to import rice and other foodstuffs. The garments export sector continues to struggle with competition from China and Vietnam. Ironically, the major export fair Bangladesh Apparel and Textile Exposition (Batexpo 2007) opened on Thursday--right before Sidr arrived to give potential buyers a taste of Bangladesh, its weather, and resilience. The women garment workers are dutiful: in previous, hartals, national emergencies or disasters--flooding--garment workers have somehow arrived at their workplaces albeit by boat.

Finally, perhaps one sign of development/ICT: last night Nari Jibon English teacher and blogger Bipa contacted me on email via her cell phone browser because that was her only power supply for communication during the power outages. She's ok.

I hope that the USA and other international media and bloggers continue to cover this ongoing situation and post Sidr recovery. We will post more stories from Nari Jibon staff and students as we receive them. Nonetheless, the essential thing that people need to use a computer and their mobiles: power! This seems to be in short supply in Bangladesh right now along with safe-drinkable water.

Some parts also crossposted in Bangladesh from our View

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