I am about to paraphrase two stories found in The Daily Star, the best English newspaper in Bangladesh. The stories are taken from the Monday, November 19, 2007 edition.
The world sees a death toll, and it is rising fast. They see pictures of devastation, death and loss. They hear of the storm which hit Dhaka. I will make a quick note here that pictures of devastation coming out of Dhaka are unrepresentative of the damage, so don't be fooled. There was one billboard knocked down in the storm, it was all over the media; there were a number of small trees and a few larger trees felled in the storm, also covered by the media; there was lots of water soaking people's homes, not covered by the media. But for clarity's sake the damage in Dhaka is almost non-existant. There have been some interesting stories to come out over the last few days which are not likely to reach mainstream media but give a little bit of insight into the country and problems in Bangladesh.
The story of slavery island. This first story will sound like the plot of a novel, and the article was written in much the same way. If it sounds unbelievable, I agree with you, but I will write about it as it is. The Bangladeshi navy were searching islands in the Bay of Bengal looking for survivors of cyclone Sidr. There they came upon Meher Ali Island where they found 106 slaves, all men on the island working for their Master drying fish. These men were all enticed to come to the island looking for well paying jobs. Told they would be receiving thousands of Taka per week and lots of benefits, these men were taken to a remote island, robbed of all identity papers, money and phones, and forced to work drying fish by day and guarding the island by night. Often they were severely beaten by the owners and were not ever able to leave the island. They were captured slaves on the island. When Sidr approached the masters ensured that all the fish were hung in the trees so they would not be destroyed, while the slaves were told to guard the fish. When the waves came the slaves ran for safety. The next day they were rounded up and beaten for leaving the fish unguarded. They have now been rescued by the navy and are going to be returned to mainland Bangladesh. For more detailed information visit, http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=12207.
The story of Crying Wolf. This second story is one of deep sadness and details the pain and crushing realities felt by many villagers. They were in a catch 22, with no way out. The last time there was a warning for villagers to enter cyclone shelters was the Tsunami, when in no uncertain terms, there was no danger in Bangladesh. The damage people did find when they returned home after the Tsunami warning was the disappearance of their cattle and possessions. Many villages were looted while their proprietors and occupants were safely hidden away from the storm that never came. Families lost their livelihoods, their cattle and their keepsakes. So, fearing another story of Crying Wolf, many villagers were hesitant to leave their homes until it was too late. Often these families lost loved ones in the storm. This is a sad story that illustrates the pain involved. To go or to stay, both scenarios risked losing everything these people had, they played the game and lost. For more information on this story visit, http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=12271.
Many more stories are emerging daily from this disaster, and people's lives have been greatly affected. I urge each one of you to keep those affected in your thoughts and prayers.