11/23/2007, 00.00
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Great response to PIME’s Bangladesh campaign

A week after cyclone Sidr hit the coastline there has been a positive response to the campaign with people calling in asking how to contribute. At present reopening road communications tops the priority list. Government action is proving efficient as the army bypasses local authorities, cutting response time and limiting corruption. First tentative figures about damages are released.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The relief campaign for Bangladesh launched by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in favour of cyclone-hit areas has generated a great response. “Many are calling, writing via e-mail, asking for information,” said PIME staff in Milan and Rome. “It is too soon though to know how much has been raised, but the initiative has certainly generated great interest.”

For now missionaries and nuns in the Borishal area are working in co-operation with Caritas, distributing food, water and medicines.

At the same time long term plans are being worked out. Prefabricated modules are being built and as soon as they are ready they will be provided to survivors.

Everywhere rescue operations are proceeding at a great pace. Road communications blocked by fallen trees and debris are the first that must re-opened. Sources from the hardest-hit areas tell AsiaNews that government action seems to be working this time.

“Soldiers sent from Dhaka are working without having to go through local authorities. This way, things are getting done faster and aid is getting in more quickly. There are also fewer cases of corruption.”

The caretaker government yesterday informed donor nations of its emergency and reconstruction plans. They include road repair, housing rehabilitation and saving the world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, ministry sources said.

The disaster management ministry has identified Barguna, Patuakhali, Bagerhat and Pirojpur as the worst-affected districts (upazilas) whilst eight other districts—Barisal, Jhalakathi, Bhola, Madaripur, Gopalganj, Shariatpur, Khulna and Satkhira—are badly affected.

Meanwhile donations from foreign nations and international humanitarian agencies are growing.

The ministry reported that more than US$ 500 million have been raised, 100 from Saudi Arabia alone.

India, Denmark, the European Union, Pakistan, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, FAO, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society are among the other donors.

As time passes the overall economic impact becomes clearer. Some 6.7 million people in 30 southern districts have been affected according to the latest government estimates. Currently, the death toll stands at more than 3,000.

According to the food and disaster management ministry, more than 92,000 hectares of cropland have been completely wiped out, and another 551,000 have been partially damaged.

Livestock also sustained severe losses as 350,000 between cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats and poultry are estimated to have been lost. In two key shrimp production areas, some 5,000 shrimp enclosures were destroyed.

In Morelganj and Sharankhola districts, important shrimp producing areas, some 5,000 shrimp enclosures were destroyed.

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