In a more ideal world, I wouldn’t be writing you all again, asking for your help. But unfortunately, our responsibility to aid those who are in dire need is upon us again. We need your help.
These villagers are moving a small shop to another location. See more pictures here.
Caught by surprise
Cyclone Sidr tore through Bangladesh late on the evening of November 15th, three days before I was scheduled to return to begin work on the Bradt Bangladesh project. At first, Bel and I weren’t aware of how bad the devastation would be. But as my phone started ringing from news agencies around the world, the true depth of the disaster began to emerge.
On Nov. 20, four days after the cyclone struck, I was sent by Indonesian radio program Asia Calling to cover the disaster from the ground. What I saw was a gradually increasing picture of devastation. Sixty-foot trees were upended and tossed into nearby houses. Village homes, most of which are constructed from bamboo and corrugated tin, were simply blown over or tossed about like tumbleweed. Those situated in the coastal or river areas were also the victims of a tidal surge, which at some places was said to be over 12 or even 20 feet tall.
I can’t imagine the terror these people must have felt for that one, very long evening. One man I met, Alamgir Hossain, said that he and his children took refuge in a tree after a huge tidal surge destroyed their home. After the night had passed, they found themselves 20 feeet above the ground.
Many inhabitants were able to make it to one of Bangladesh’s numerous cyclone shelters. As a result of these shelters, not as many have perished in this cyclone as have in previous disasters. But because Bangladesh’s infrastructure, health and education systems lag far behind, people who live in the cyclone’s path had their homes and livelihoods destroyed, with no safety net to help them recover.
The disaster also calls the Sundarbans one of its victims. As the world’s largest littoral mangrove forest, the Sundarbans is Bangladesh’s prime tourist attraction. Early reports have said that over a quarter of the forest was damaged. Although I have yet to confirm that report, it is well known that several local fishing villages in and around the Sundarbans were badly hit as they bore the brunt of the storm, including Dublar Char, an island on the southern edge of the forest.
As a result of the above, Guide Tours, one of Bangladesh’s most established and best tour operators, has embarked on a relief effort to aid the people of the Sundarbans. They will be using their company boats to deliver immediate aid and long-term assistance to victims located in the Sundarbans. I have republished their relief appeal at Joybangla.info and now ask you, my friends, contacts and previous donors, to consider committing some of your resources to their efforts. Please read their appeal, and if you cannot donate this time, please do forward the message to others.
In a more ideal world, a disaster like this wouldn’t strike a country like Bangladesh twice in one year. Nonetheless, our responsibility to aid those who are suffering cannot be denied. It is my hope that one day the people here will be able to protect themselves from the ravages of a disaster like this.
Why support the Guide Tours’ relief effort?
As we (Bel and I) move in to the role of travel journalists and promoters of Bangladeshi tourism, we have consistently found Guide Tours to provide the most consistent and high level of service for travellers to the Sundarbans, both international and domestic. As we also believe in the majestic beauty of the Sundarbans and its preservation, we believe that our relief efforts, however small, should go towards the preservation of the World Heritage-listed forest whose presence, by slowing the tidal surge of Cyclone Sidr, also saved lives.
If you would like to learn more, please listen to my radio reports, using the below player, or read about Guide Tours’ relief appeal. Otherwise, please read this excellent editorial about the disaster written by a media colleague, Zafar Sobhan. Finally, you can read a previous article of mine on the Sundarbans here.
Every donation helps!
Guide Tours has indicated the following when it comes to usage of the donations:
For your information:
1 US$ = 3-4 Liters of Safe Drinking Water
10 US$ = 20 Kilo of Rice or 10 Kilo of Lentils
100 US$ = one day ship fuel required for transport
What will happen with the funds raised?
In order to facilitate donations, we (Belinda Meggitt and Mikey Leung) are accepting funds on behalf of Guide Tours via online payment gateway Paypal. You will need your credit card to donate. Simply click the “Make a Donation” button below and follow the instructions. You will need to register for a PayPal account in order to donate. On Nov. 30, we will pass what we have raised so far to Guide Tours, and on Dec. 7, we will conclude our fundraising and then wire these funds directly to Guide Tours for long-term restoration work in the Sundarbans.
Otherwise you can wire funds to Guide Tours directly using the following info:
Name of the account:
The Guide Tours Ltd.
Name of the Bank:
Standard Chartered Bank
Dhaka. 2, Dilkusha c/a, P.O.Box-169, Dhaka-1000
Swift Code Number: SCBLBDDX
Account number: 01-1104772-01
Comment: Cyclone Relief
For those of you who sent me messages of concern, my apologies for not letting you know about my status sooner! Thanks, it’s good to know people think of you when stuff like this happens.