SUPER cyclone Amphan, said to be the first to form over the Bay of Bengal since 1999 and to have packed winds gusting up to 185 kilometres an hour at sea, battered Bangladesh’s coast in the afternoon on Wednesday, about two hours after making landfall in India, leaving a trail of destruction. The cyclone, which packed the highest winds inside Bangladesh clocking up to 115 kilometres an hour, as the Bangladesh Meteorological Department measured at 8:00pm, however, weakened as it moved along the Bangladesh coast but caused heavy rain and fierce winds, whipping up surges up to 15 feet high. A complete assessment of the situation may happen in about a week, as the minister of state for disaster management and relief said in the afternoon of Thursday. Yet, an initial government assessment has reported a loss of Tk 11 billion in terms of crops, infrastructure and coastal protection embankment being damaged in the 26 districts, which include Satkhira, Bagerhat and Patuakhali that have been severely battered. Road network spanning 1,100 kilometres, coastal embankment spanning 150 kilometres, 200 bridges and culverts and 233 local government offices are reported to have been damaged in the affected districts. Shrimp enclosures worth Tk 3.5 billion are reported to have been washed away. The cyclone has damaged an unspecified number of houses. Mango production could entail a loss of Tk 1.5 billion.
The cyclone — which left 10 dead, as the minister said, with the health control room, however, having claimed the figure to be 16 — has damaged electric supply lines extensively and an unspecified number of houses. The government’s preparedness in view of the loss of lives — which in cyclone Aila in May 2009 was 339 and in cyclone Sidr in November 2007 was 3,447 — appears to be somewhat satisfactory. While all the figures are initial estimations and any of them could rise, the minister on Thursday said that the rebuilding process would start at the earliest, with the repairs of the damaged houses, embankments and roads beginning the process. The government, which is now grappling with the COVID-19 emergency with fears for a dengue outbreak lurking ahead, should put in all its efforts simultaneously in all fronts — repairs of damaged houses, office buildings, roads and embankments, the mitigation of sufferings of the people affected, health issues of the affected people, the rehabilitation of farmers engaged in crop and fruit production and others engaged in various trades such as fishing and fisheries in forms of aid and loans on easy terms, the education of the children, already harmed by a prolonged educational institution holiday over COVID-19 fears, in affected areas, and the economic rehabilitation of all who have been affected — in a time when people are already faced with a crisis with no end in sight.
All this is essential and urgent as the general holiday ordered as a preventive measure against the transmission risk of COVID-19 has already stalled the economy, leaving people with their savings having spent and with a fast-declining purchasing capacity. It is, therefore, imperative for the government to attend to all such issues, keeping the whole process off partisan interest and corruption and irregularities. The government must also attend to all issues for the protection of the Sunderbans, believed by experts and all to have borne the brunt of the storm, rising above any commercial interest, national or international.
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