A Small Prayer Answered: Shelter Provides Small Comfort for Cyclone Widow
By David Snyder/CRS
Built on a patch of ground immediately beside the site of her former home, the new house provided Rupiya and her kids with the first bit of good news they had received in awhile.
Rupiya herself will tell you that one year ago, she would never have imagined the life she leads now. That was before her husband died, before she lost her house, before she lost her parents. But much has changed since Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh.
“My husband was a fisherman,” Rupiya said. “He was out fishing with five others in a boat when the cyclone hit. We have never found him, or any of the others.”
But on the night of November 15, 2007, Rupiya had little time to worry about her husband – she was fighting her own battle for survival. When Cyclone Sidr started lashing southern Bangladesh with wind gusts of 250 kilometers an hour, Rupiya’s small house of bamboo and thatch stood little chance.
“I was living next door to here, but then the wind started to blow away my house,” Rupia said. “So I took shelter in my uncle’s house.”
When the storm finally blew over, it left destruction on an impossible scale behind it. More than 363,000 houses destroyed – among them Rupiya’s, along with more than 100 others in and around her village of Hogulpati. In all, more than 8.9 million Bangladeshi’s were affected by Cyclone Sidr.
The days after are a bit of a blur for Rupiya – the news that her father and brother had been killed by the storm. There was as yet no news of her husband. Gathering her three kids, she fled to the only refuge she knew of – the remains of her father’s house, damaged by the winds and tidal surge but still standing.
“Then my father’s house fell down,” Rupiya said. “And I stayed in places I made on my own.”
Wrestling with the increasing certainty that her husband, too, had been killed, Rupiya got the news that her mother had died in the weeks after the storm. It all seemed unreal. But then Rupiya heard that Caritas Bangladesh, was looking to help. Reaching more than 62,000 families with emergency relief in the weeks after the disaster, Caritas Bangladeshset out to rebuild homes for those affected by the cyclone – one of the largest shelter projects ever carried out by Caritas Bangladesh. The news could not have come at a better time for Rupiya.
“I went to the [local government] and told them my story,” Rupiya said. “Then they went to Caritas when they were doing house construction. They came and visited this place and gave me tin sheeting.”
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