Thousands flee after deadly cyclone pounds Bangladesh, Sri Lanka

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TROUBLED WATERS: A Sri Lankan cleans up flood damage in Colombo. Below: A Bangladeshi woman walks through a waterlogged street after heavy rainfall in Dhaka. (Agencies)
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Updated 24 May 2016

Thousands flee after deadly cyclone pounds Bangladesh, Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI: Tens of thousands of people in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka need aid including clean drinking water, dry food rations and medicines after a deadly cyclone hammered the South Asia region, aid agencies said on Tuesday.

With wind speeds reaching 90 kph (56 mph) and heavy rains, cyclone Roanu struck Bangladesh on Saturday, after buffeting India and Sri Lanka in the Bay of Bengal — killing at least 120 people and affecting hundreds of thousands more in the region.
Aid workers said Roanu’s torrential rains triggered flooding, landslides and tidal surges mostly in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — ripping apart thousands of rickety homes, burying entire villages and inundating swathes of farmland.
“Tens of thousands of poor families will have lost most of their assets — not just their houses, but also their food stores, seasonal crops and vital livestock such as cows, goats and ducks,” said Shakeb Nabi, Christian Aid’s Bangladesh head.
“Access to food, safe drinking water, health supplies and sanitation materials is limited in some villages. Water points have been ruined, ground water contaminated and agricultural land destroyed.”
In Sri Lanka, where more than a week of heavy rains has triggered the worst flooding in 25 years, the United Nations said it was worried about the spread of diseases due to large amounts of standing water.
The World Health Organization said there was an increased risk of vector borne diseases like malaria, water borne and diarrheal diseases, the bacterial disease leptospirosis, fungal diseases and acute respiratory infections.
“Prevention measures to combat such diseases are essential,” it added.
Roanu is the first cyclone of the season, which generally lasts from April to December, with severe storms often causing mass evacuations from coastal low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage.
Aid agencies in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka said they had begun distributing relief in the worst affected districts and foreign aid had started arriving in Sri Lanka from countries including India, Pakistan and Singapore. Half a million people have had their lives disrupted in Bangladesh’s low-lying coastal areas such as Barisal and Chittagong, and over 255,000 people are affected in Sri Lankan districts including Kegalle, Gamapaha and the capital Colombo in the west.
“We have pre-positioned household materials and hygiene kits that we can dispatch to affected areas and distribute to communities in urgent need,” said Senait Gebregziabher, country director for Plan International.
“These materials will be essential as children and families affected by the cyclone, particularly those forced to leave their homes, will most likely be seeking food, shelter, basic sanitation and access to clean water.”
Sri Lanka has reported 94 deaths and 107 people missing. Bangladesh said at least 24 people had died and India reported two deaths.
UN emergency officials said Roanu also brought heavy rains and flooding to coastal eastern and southern India and western parts of Myanmar, but the impact was less severe.


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.