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Bangladesh cyclone relief efforts get initial funding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptists are working with Bangladesh Baptist leaders to identify areas of greatest need after a Nov. 15 cyclone killed more than 3,400 people in the Ganges River delta along the Bay of Bengal.

An initial $50,000 in Southern Baptist relief funds have been released. Requests for additional funds are expected because relief will be needed in multiple areas.

Although as many as 2 million people obeyed government evacuation orders, there appear to have been many who tried to ride out the storm as Cyclone Sidr’s 155-mph winds lashed houses made of bamboo.

Dhalan Mridha, a 45-year-old farm worker, thought nothing was really going to happen and went to bed. Then “just before midnight the winds came like hundreds of demons,” he told the Associated Press. “Our small hut was swept away like a piece of paper, and we all ran for shelter.”

He lost his wife, mother and two children in the storm.

The toll could reach 10,000 once rescuers reach outlying islands, according to assessments compiled by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the Muslim equivalent of the International Red Cross.

The Bangladeshi government did a good job of getting relief supplies in place before the storm hit, said Jim Brown, U.S. director for Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international development and relief organization. Tents, rice and water are making their way into the region and military helicopters are dropping emergency rations into areas not yet accessible by road, according to news reports.

“The government, military and major relief organizations are all doing a good job providing initial relief materials to the affected area,” Brown said. “But there are always gaps in relief efforts. Our strategy is to work with the Bangladesh Baptist Convention to identify areas that are not being adequately helped and focus our efforts there.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes, all their possessions and their means of livelihood, Brown said. Southern Baptists can demonstrate that they are people who care, he added, by addressing those needs and helping cyclone victims find hope and peace in their difficult circumstances.

Two Southern Baptist field partners in Bangladesh expressed appreciation for prayers that God would protect people in the storm’s path and emphasized that the need for prayer is still great.

“We are thankful to God for protecting the millions living on the coastline. I truly believe God protected the masses in Bangladesh from certain death because he has a plan for their lives,” said Susan Galvin,* who serves among Bangladesh’s tribal people groups. “He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

“Pray for those who have lost loved ones and homes in the Barisal area,” Galvin said. “Pray that God will reveal Himself in a mighty way to those who are suffering and facing a difficult road of rebuilding.”

“Our hearts are heavy for all those without hope,” said Drew Neely*, who also serves among Bangladeshis. “We are even more motivated now to go and tell them about the hope that is within us.”
*Names changed for security reasons. Mark Kelly is a freelance writer based in Gallatin, Tenn.

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