A Pakistan Army helicopter flew over the Bhola and Kutubdia islands in the Bay of Bengal on Thursday (19 November) dropping the first rice supplies to reach starving villagers who survived the cyclone and tidal wave which hit East Pakistan last Friday (November 13).
A Pakistan Army helicopter flew over the Bhola and Kutubdia islands in the Bay of Bengal on Thursday (19 November) dropping the first rice supplies to reach starving villagers who survived the cyclone and tidal wave which hit East Pakistan last Friday (November 13). At one place the helicopter landed, the local leaders had to beat back their people to allow the rice to be fairly distributed.
Over 100,000 of the estimated 150,000 deaths were in the Barishal area which includes both the Bhola and Kutubdia islands. Local sources put the death toll much higher than these official figures and estimate that more than a million and a half have died as a result of the cyclone, the tidal wave, and the mass starvation and disease which followed them.
Dead bodies and animal carcases can still be seen strewn over the coastal area decimated by the tidal wave. They are bloated after days in the water and tropical heat and give off an unbearable stench. The rotting bodies have endangered water supplies and there are fears of a widespread outbreak of cholera and typhoid.
Some of the islands have not been reached yet but Pakistan Air Force aircraft, a civilian aircraft and a Army helicopter have been dropping supplies into the accessible regions. More helicopters and small boats are being moved into the area to help distribute food, material and medicine as well as personnel, now waiting at Dacca Airport.
As the helicopter flew over the devastated villages, people would run towards it through the ruined paddy-fields. The helicopter would drop sacks of rice to the starved villagers -- their first food since the disaster took place eight days ago.
When the helicopter landed at one point, the crowd of starving islanders was so large and desperate for food, that their own village leaders had to beat them back with sticks to ensure fair distribution of the rice. When the rice was being handed out the crowd again become disorderly and threatened to overwhelm the men distributing it. Again they were beaten back by their leaders and the food grain given out. However much they get at this stage it is not enough.
The helicopter was carrying only five tons of grain and made two runs over the area. Helicopters from the United States and Britain together with British shallow-draught boats should be in the area and operating very soon.