Violent tornado leaves families without shelter

News and Press Release
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By Maherin Ahmed, IFRC Bangladesh

The steam of the scorching sun was rising from the ground of Chandigram village of Brahmanbaria. Shah Alam is standing barefoot, at the place where his house stood a few days earlier. That was before a violent tornado ripped through dozens of rural villages in the Brahmanbaria district in Bangladesh on 23 March. In just 15 minutes the tornado caused 31 deaths and affected over 1,200 families. This whirlwind destroyed everything in its path including trees, homes and wells.

Shah Alam and his family is, like many caught up in the storm, now living under the open sky with no access to safe shelter, water or proper sanitation.

“I don’t have the words to express what it was like,” says Alam’s wife Rohila Begu. “Now there is nothing left but sand. It feels like I am in the land of desert. I am grateful I am left with my life and this soil to stand on.” Like many other families, the eight family members having nothing but a mat to sleep on, with no privacy.

“I have to wait till dark to respond to nature’s call,” says Rohila. “How can I go when there are men everywhere?” She also feels insecure at night and worries about her teenage daughters. “I have two eligible daughters, how can I sleep with no roofs and walls?” she says.

Relief supplies were mobilised within 12 hours of the disaster from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) emergency stocks.

“The Red Crescent responded fast. Within 20 hours of the typhoon striking, a National Disaster Response Team of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society was on the ground, carrying out an assessment of the damages and needs,” says Tsehayou Seyoum, the IFRC’s country representative in Bangladesh.

Within three days, 600 families had been provided with supplied including tarpaulins, plastic jerry cans for water storage, hygiene kits and household items for each family. A Red Crescent medical team was also deployed to provide primary health care. 62 patients have been treated for cuts and minor bruises.

While Bangladesh is no stranger to tropical cyclones that sweep in from the Bay of Bengal during the monsoon season, tornadoes are less common. 12-year-old Nazmul Haque is struggling to come to terms with the freak event. “These relief items will help us survive for some time since the black fire took away everything we had in our house.”