(16th june morning we are back in dhaka, and i am trying to share our experiences with you. i so much want to write about what we saw and try to use words to recreate pictures of the disaster for you. but after three days among the people who lived through a real hell, my brain is also tired. we left so many people to be alone in their darkness and despair, while we headed back for our regular comfort zone in dhaka. i wish we could have stayed back and worked with them until all tears were wiped of every face and until every face could again break into a smile. i wish we could have told them that we would come back again tomorrow and every day thereafter. here is my report from yesterday:
it started to rain before midnight, not a light drizzle but a rather heavy downpour. we felt bad for the people we had learned to know who would now spend a night in fear of what might again happen. no doubt that they have painful pictures and sounds forever etched into their brain. i am sure they would remain alert throughout the night for sounds that could be similar to what they heard seconds before the tragedy. for us they are no longer just victims, they are real people that we shared time with, they are people we would like to see again as soon as possible.
we prepared ourselves to get soaked and dirty and headed for lebu bagan inside the cantonment, possibly the most affected place of the many landslide spots of chittagong. the day before, a nice sunny day, we had seen distribution of aid at several places. on this rainy day, no aid activities were seen at all until we left the place at mid day. was it uncomfortable to be out in the rain? for the people that lost everything and everyone they had, rain or sun makes no difference, they need help now and for a long time.
the first thing we learned arriving at lebu bagan was that they had found the body of nur jahan yesterday afternoon. at least then fahinoor, her little brother and her disabled father would be able to bury her mother with some respect and with a last farewell prayer. yesterday lebu bagan was the spot where 50 army and fire brigade men searched for nur jahans body in a surreal scene. today we only found a strange emptiness at the same spot. it seemed that the small settlement had been ravished, raped and torn apart by a gigantic monster.
with an unbelievable strong voice, the man who lost his whole family, his wife and his four children, told us what he witnessed when the hills suddenly dissolved into an ocean of mud and came towards him with a big roar, in huge waves just sweeping away whatever was in their way. he said that you only see such things in cinema, but that no movie could ever be made as scary as what they saw. he would never spend a single night in the same place, even if he got all the riches in the world.
several of the men had got out in the heavy rain in the morning to clear obstacles in the drains to release the water that rapidly built up. when the first hill came down in waves, several people got fully or partly buried in mud. their screams brought the attention of many neighbours which came out of their houses (some of which still stand and would have been safe). in just minutes the hills dissolved at three more places and buried them all. the now survivors will have to live the rest of their lives with the memories of their wives or husbands, sons or daughters, mothers or fathers being carried away or quickly being buried under more mud pouring. for the rest of their lives, they will hear the voices of their dear ones calling out for them: “save me! help me!”. despite the frantic effort of the whole community, they could not save a single person, they could only dig out their bodies days later.
i am not able to write everything i was told, i am not strong enough to get through such sentences, what i have told here is just small pieces of the whole story.
however, as we were searching a way to gradually bring back hope, to gradually add some light to the lives of those in the deepest despair, we spent time talking with selected people which the community also could agree were in a special need of attention. we could leave some small money for simple purchases or medical expenses, and we could leave a sincere promise to come back and see them and extend the hand of the blog community to partner in rebuilding their lives. we did not rush into distribution, as there are professional organisations better equipped than us to provide immediate assistance. what we are doing is to give a promise of a three month support, to rent a new house, fill it up with basic furniture and utensils, get some clothes and finally, have the financial freedom and support to search for a better job. if we stand beside them during the darkest days, they will be capable to sustain themselves later.
the blog community will now get some new family members, and we will present them with pictures and their history as far as we can retell. perhaps the best outcome of this mission will be a more engaged blog community able to respond to later disasters, a blog community that unites and adopt the selected people. sometimes the best help in difficult times is a hand to hold, a feeling of not being alone and the faith that we will there for them in the future as well. when we on the third consecutive day went to chittagong medical hospital to see humayun´s two brothers, both of them for the first time gave us a smile, in the happy knowledge that we came there to be with them for a while.