An Urgent Appeal Made for Cyclone Victims in India and Bangladesh

Amidst reports indicating over 130 people death and thousands homeless due to Cyclone Aila that has hit Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday evening, local Christian NGOs in the region have appealed for an assistance.

Cyclone Aila hit parts of coastal Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday 26 May, triggering tidal surges and flooding that have left millions of people marooned by tidal surges and floodwaters or are taking refuge in temporary shelters.

The death toll in Bangladesh rose to at least 89 following recovery of more bodies on Tuesday, the Daily Star newspaper said in its online edition, while Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that at least 49 people had died in West Bengal state.

In Bangladesh, the worst affected area was the Satkhira district, near the port of Mongla, where a local official said 17 bodies were found in one village. Around 500,000 people have been moved by the local authorities to temporary shelters to escape huge tidal waves churned by winds up to 100 kph (60 mph).

Local Christian NGOs have made an appeal through Action by Churches Together (ACT), an international Christian relief based in Switzerland to assist the victims of the deadly cyclone even as the death toll is rising.

One ACT member RDRS reports that cattle, fish stocks and crops have been severely impacted and road communication cut off in the affected areas. A large number of people have taken shelter at different cyclone centres and schools. ACT members are monitoring the situation.

In West Bengal, India, the heavy rainfall, high tides and tidal surges have breached river and flood embankments inundating large parts of the six Blocks of South 24 Parganas district. Thousands are without sufficient food and shelter.

Hundreds of rural houses have been destroyed or damaged; families have lost their essential household items; crops have been destroyed. The displaced population have taken shelter in school buildings and other safer locations. Many others are in villages still cut-off from the mainland. While the weather has today calmed, the full extent of the impact is still being clarified, and ACT members in India are continuing to closely monitor the cyclone in case it should intensify again while mobilizing an immediate relief response.

Indian Army began rescue and relief operations in cyclone-hit districts of West Bengal on Tuesday and IAF helicopters air-dropped food packets in worst-affected South and North 24 Parganas, reported PTI.

Cyclonic storms are a common phenomena in Bangladesh, mainly during April-May and October-November.

Aila is the worst cyclonic storm after Sidr, that claimed more than 5,000 lives in mid-2007. In 1991, a severe cyclone killed over 150,000 in Bangladesh and on Nov 12, 1969, nearly one million people were killed by another cyclone.

ACT members Church Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) and Lutheran World Service India (LWSI) immediately received appeals from local NGO partners operating in the affected regions for assistance.

LWSI have sent a rapid assessment team into the affected areas today (May 26th). 300 HDPE Plastic sheets from the LWSI stockpile for temporary shelter have been dispatched along with the rapid assessment team to the affected areas. CASA have gathered rapid assessment information from three local partners present in the area, Daniel Asharam Society and Hasus and Haripur Women Health Society.

ACT is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide. The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.