Cyclone Sidr

Bangladesh, Jan. 2008. A story by charity: water founder Scott Harrison

We invested $100,000 in Bangladesh after Cyclone Sidr killed thousands, destroyed millions of homes and turned Bangladesh's water situation upside down.

Since this story was posted in Jan. 2008, charity: water has funded 327 water projects in Bangladesh to serve more than 63,000 people get access to clean, safe drinking water.
See more updated stories from Bangladesh on our blog

Having just spent a few days in the Cyclone-affected zone in Bangladesh, this is how I imagine a film on the disaster might open.

Cyclone.

EXT: Southern Bangladesh, November 15, 2007 – NIGHT.

Fade In:

Darkness.

We hear water rushing, then high-pitched screams and cries for help. The sounds of women, men and children blend together. Something terrifying is happening.

We can see a little more now, the moon casts a dim glow.

Water is everywhere. It swirling, pushing this way and that. It’s hard to tell what’s happening. A young girl’s body rushes by the camera, her arms wave frantically, her mouth moves but no sound comes out. Moments later, she’s sucked under. A cooking pot drifts by. The lid is off, and a baby can be seen inside. The pot stays afloat, but disappears into the vast sea.

Fade To Black:

EXT: Southern Bangladesh, November 16, 2007. DAY.

Fade In:

Overhead shot of Padma town.

Everything is broken here. Trees lie everywhere - snapped, splintered. Roofs of tin lay gnarled and twisted on the beach, half a kilometer from the houses they used to protect. Dead cows, goats, sheep, donkeys and dogs begin to rot in the late morning sun. A school where 150 students attended the previous day is now a pile of cement and iron rubble. The sounds of grief are agonizing. People stumble this way and that in a daze, looking for family members, survivors.

Close On:

Woman
(sobbing softly)
“I tied my baby to a tree to save her from the water. When I went back, she was gone.”

Fade To Black:

Cyclone Sidr crashed the shores of Bangladesh on November 15th, 2007, bringing with it 150 MPH winds and a 7 foot tidal surge. When the water receded, more than 3,000 were dead, and 5,000 missing. Three million houses were completely destroyed, and a shocking eight million people were affected by the storm.

To be honest, I don’t remember hearing anything about a cyclone in Bangladesh on November 15 as I sipped my morning coffee in New York, or even in the few days following. I was busy preparing for our annual charity: ball gala, and had several meetings and a conference call that day. Like many, I was busy.

I learned about Sidr about a week later through one of our partners, Concern Worldwide US, who told us that many, many wells had been destroyed (we now know it’s at least 1,475). Would charity: water consider helping the Bangladeshi people regain access to clean water?

Yes I said, of course we were interested.

I asked if Concern would show me around the cyclone-affected area if I came, and let me bring the story home to our supporters.

A few days ago, I landed in Dhaka from Calcutta, and jumped on a small seaplane with Concern’s country director, Kieron Crawley; Cat Power singer Chan Marshall, and my videographer Matt Oliver. We flew about an hour south to the coast, and landed on a wide river. Traveling by boat, Land Rover and bicycle rickshaw when bridges were out, we toured several communities in two affected districts, and saw for ourselves the incredible damage done by this storm that killed almost twice as many as Katrina, and destroyed seven times as many homes.

Hurricane Katrina vs. Cyclobe Sidr

We saw many fresh graves, broken wells and contaminated water sources. And we learned what we could do to help the people here. That for $750, we could construct a new tube well, and for only $60, repair broken ones.

charity: water has committed $100,000 to help some of the eight million people affected by Cyclone Sidr get clean water to drink.

- Scott Harrison

You can provide life-saving clean water to the people who need it most. 100% of your contribution will fund water project costs in the field.