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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 16:33 GMT
Bangladesh forest post destroyed
By Alastair Lawson
BBC News, Chandreswar

Ranger Hafizur Rahman stands at the site of the destroyed outpost
Ranger Hafizur Rahman stands where the hut used to be
A forestry outpost in south-west Bangladesh visited by the BBC before last week's catastrophic cyclone has been completely destroyed.

Rangers at the remote station hoped that a hefty rope tethering the hut to a large tree nearby would prevent it from being blown away in bad weather.

But winds of up to 240km/h (150mph) not only blew the tree down - the rope snapped as if it were made of cotton.

All that is left of the outpost are a few pieces of wood.

Everything else, including office furniture and bedding, was blown away in the storm.

'Terrible night'

More than 3,000 people are so far known to have been killed in the cyclone, which hit Bangladesh late on Thursday night.

Forestry department headquarters in Chandeshwar
This forestry department office seen last week

"All we found at the outpost after we returned from fleeing the area ahead of the storm you can see in front of you," said forest ranger Hafizur Rahman, pointing to bits of broken wood on the ground.

"The corrugated iron roof was just blown away."

Mr Rahman lamented that the plan by the handful of rangers who live and work at the outpost to secure the building using a thick rope in the event of a cyclone had not worked.

"It might have done so in a lesser storm but there was no way this outpost could have been saved on that terrible night," he said.

Mr Rahman is adamant that the forestry department will re-build a new outpost on the site, located at Chandreswar, on the southern tip of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest that adjoins the Bay of Bengal.

Five other forestry department outposts were also destroyed in the storm.

"We have to have an outpost here to help fishermen, farmers and other people who get lost in the Sundarbans," said Mr Rahman.

"When they do rebuild, I only hope that it will be a little stronger than the old one."

Hazards

The area is one of the most storm-exposed places in a country renowned for its devastating cyclones and high population density.

"We are used to floods and we are used to high winds, but seldom have we ever experienced a storm of this magnitude," he said.

Chandreswar is designated an "official tidal zone", vulnerable not just to floods but to the regular tidal surges that take place in this harsh and inaccessible area.

The rangers who work there have no fresh drinking water apart from the rainwater they collect from the rooftop.

The nearest food and medical supplies is a two-hour boat journey away in the town of Sharankhola.

In addition, there is the constant danger posed by tigers and crocodiles.

SEE ALSO
In pictures: S Asia flood relief
07 Aug 07 |  In Pictures
S Asia floods: Worst-hit areas
03 Aug 07 |  South Asia

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