Bangladesh: Severe Local Storm - Information Bulletin n° 1

This bulletin is being issued for information only and reflects the current situation and details available at this time. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is not seeking funding or other assistance from donors for this operation. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), will, however, accept direct assistance to provide support to the affected population or replenish the stock which has been used to assist the vulnerable families under this operation.

The situation

A tornado ripped through more than a dozen rural villages in eastern Bangladesh in the district of Brahmanbaria on late Friday, 22 March 2013, killing at least 26 people, as per the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) assessment, battering six unions of three upazilas (sub district) severely injuring 388 and affecting 1,633 families. BDRCS Brahmanbaria Unit reported more than 1,400 houses completely destroyed and more than 100 homes partially damaged.

The tornado wreaked havoc in Brahmanbaria district over a 15-minute period, uprooting thousands of trees and flattened hundreds of tin and mud-built houses in the area, and snapping road and rail communication with affected villages. Most of the affected population has been living without proper shelter since the storm, trying to construct makeshift dwellings on the site of their original shelters. The tarpaulins distributed by BDRCS offer protection to those who lost their shelters during the disaster. At the onset of disaster, the district police chief reported more than 100 people have been hospitalized, of which up to 12 people were in a critical condition. BDRCS district unit office reported on 24 March that about 312 people were admitted in the hospital. Many of the injured were rushed to hospitals in the nearest towns including the capital, Dhaka. The tornado overturned dozens of motor vehicles and large trucks. Vehicles movement on Comilla-Sylhet highway remained inaccessible for about two hours as roadside were blocked by the fallen trees due to the tornado.

Government reports indicated that rescue operations were organised with the help of Police, Boarder Guards of Bangladesh (BGB), Roads and Highway, Public works department (PWD) and local leaders. Two medical teams from Comilla cantonment are providing medical services to the victims. The injured are admitted and recieved treatment from Brahmanbaria Sadar Hospital and other neighboring hospitals/ clinics. Those who have lost their shelters have been relocated to a temporary shelter organised by the local administration. As stated on the DMIC report, the government has allocated relief cash grant BDT 20,000 (approximately CHF 240) for each family who lost a family member and BDT 5,000 (approximately CHF 60) for those who are injured.

Furtheremore, the government is providing corrugated galvanised iron (CGI) sheets and cash grant BDT 6,000 (approximately CHF 73) to those with damaged house. Government has distributed 40 million tonnes (mts) of rice from its allocated 100 mts of rice from its gracious relief (GR) fund.

Concern worldwide has started psychosocial support to the affected people using their trained personnel; while Muslim Aid has a medical team in the affected area. Apart from these two organizations, CARE, Islamic Relief are conducting assessment. From the donor community, the European commission humanitarian aid (DG-ECHO) has dispatched a team to the affected area to assess the situation.

The Humanitarian Country Task Team (HCTT) met on 25 March 2013 to take stock of the situation. The meeting concluded that no Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) will be launched. A total of 1,350 families have been provided with emergency shelter by Government and BDRCS. If there are more of shelter needs, the shelter cluster and relevant partners are to review and contribute towards meeting those needs. Government also reported that cooked food has been provided to the affected people. In order to meet the provision of cooked rice for families, more cooking pots need to be provided immediately.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing 7.5 kilogrammes (kgs) of high-energy biscuits to each of the affected families to meet their nutritional need for at least five days. Provision of safe drinking water and household sanitation needs are yet to be sufficiently addressed. The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) cluster is reviewing the situation and mobilizing resources to address these needs. All the development partners would continue to fill up the existing gaps with the resources that are available.