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Another disaster unfolding in cyclone-hit Sundarbans

By Arun Anand, IANS,

Pathar Pratima (West Bengal) : Almost a month after the devastating cyclone Aila hit the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest abutting the Bay of Bengal, another disaster is waiting to happen: thousands of residents are living in several island villages without food, water and basic hygiene.

The cyclone tore through 13 of the state’s 19 districts of this eastern Indian state May 25-26, leaving a trail of destruction with houses levelled, trees uprooted, power cables snapped and 138 lives lost.

“Thousands of residents are living in relief camps in inhuman conditions waiting helplessly. There is an epidemic waiting to break out,” Gopal Pramanik, president of the Sunderbans Social Development Centre (SDC), told a visiting IANS correspondent.

Pramanik, who has been working in this area as a volunteer for about two decades, said: “Most of the villages have no power supply, making relief efforts even more difficult. The relief material has to be taken on boats as they are the only mode of transport available to reach most of the villages.”