Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Bangladesh Disaster Response

It's been two days since a devastating cyclone hit the low-lying country in South Asia. More than 2,200 (this report suggests 3,000) have been killed by the storm, and the devastation is widespread in one of the poorest countries in the world. Part of the reason for the poverty could be attributed to the fact that the region is hit so hard by storms that you can barely rebuild in time for the next storm to hit. Via the AP story, which provides the 2,200 figure:

"We have seen more bodies floating in the sea," fisherman Zakir Hossain from the country‘s southwest said, after reaching shore with two decomposing bodies he and other fishermen had found on their way.

Aid organizations said they feared food shortages and contaminated water could lead to widespread problems if people remain stranded.

However, property damage was massive. Many evacuees who returned home Saturday found their bamboo-and-straw huts flattened.

An estimated 2.7 million people were affected and 773,000 houses were damaged, according to the Ministry of Disaster Management. Roughly 250,000 cattle and poultry perished, and crops were destroyed along huge swaths of land.

Several countries pledged to help.

She said that the ships USS Essex and the USS Kearsage were en route to Bangladesh to help with relief operations, and that the U.S. would airlift 35 tons of non-food items such as plastic sheeting and hygiene kits.

The United Nations released $7 million, while the German government offered $731,000. The European Union released $2.2 million, and British officials said they would give $5 million.
As always, the US is on the vanguard of those leading the charge to provide humanitarian assistance. There is no better way to improve US image abroad than by these missions.

UPDATE:
Welcome Instapundit readers!

UPDATE:
I'm trying to nail down what it costs for the US Navy to provide this kind of humanitarian aid. However, in the process, I've found that the USS Essex is supremely qualified to handle this kind of mission as it was involved in providing assistance during the South Asian Quake/Tsunami relief efforts.

UPDATE:
The death toll is over 3,000 and some are estimating that more than 15,000 have perished. Millions more are imperiled by disease and lack of potable water and food.
The Bangladeshi Red Crescent Society, the country's main humanitarian group, said that more than 3,000 bodies had already been recovered from villages shattered by Cyclone Sidr's 150mph winds.

While the official death toll remains low, Save the Children last night said that it feared that 15,000 people could have died while the Red Crescent estimated around 10,000.

An international relief effort, supported by donations from the UN, Britain, US and Europe, was slowly grinding into gear yesterday as the International Red Cross estimated 900,000 families had been affected.

Previous cyclones killed 500,000 people in 1970 and 143,000 in 1991 - however local officials said the impact would now fall on the many survivors.
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In the worst affected districts, 90 per cent of homes and 95 per cent of rice crops and valuable prawn farms were obliterated by the winds, which generated a 20ft tidal surge that swept everything from its path.
Despite the horrific death toll, advances in meteorology and preparedness enabled millions more to escape the deadly effects of the storm. The country has made great strides to improve the disaster preparedness after a series of deadly storms that made the tsunami look like a walk in the park. Still, the situation in Bangladesh and other regions that are hit by natural disasters on a regular basis have problems that have to be addressed - all too often it is a matter of disaster response and not disaster preparedness.


 


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