New Delhi, Dec 1: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will visit Dhaka today to hand over the aid pledged by India with a sense of urgency following a severe cyclone-hit Bangladesh on November 15. Pranab will convey solidarity of the people of India to those affected by the cyclone, which resulted in heavy loss of life and widespread destruction in coastal areas. During his visit, Pranab will meet Bangladesh Chief Advisor Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed and Foreign Advisor Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury. He will survey some cyclone affected areas and meet the victims.
Over the last few days, the Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft have been expeditiously delivering relief materials consisting of medicines, tents, blankets, ready-to-eat meals and portable water-purifiers to Bangladesh.
An IL-76 aircraft left New Delhi on Friday for Dhaka carrying the last consignment of relief supplies. Mukherjee is expected to formally hand over this consignment to the Bangladeshi authorities today.
As announced by the External Affairs Minister earlier, India is also sending essential food items such as food aid, including rice, wheat and milk powder, worth nearly 100 crore rupees to Bangladesh. Delivery of these items is being expedited. One such consignment consisting of more than 9,000 metric tonnes of rice reached Chittagong (Bangladesh) during the Ramadan.
Earlier, following torrential rains, which caused mudslides in Chittagong in June 2007, India had also extended 10-million-dollar cash assistance to Bangladesh. In a gesture, India has also lifted the current ban on export of rice with respect to Bangladesh allowing it to import 50,000 metric tonnes from India.
A severe cyclone struck Bangladesh in November with 250 kph winds that whipped up a five-meter tidal surge. Around 3,500 people were killed by cyclone Sidr, making it the deadliest in 16 years. Thousands more are missing or injured and aid workers and officials say at least two million people have been displaced.
According to the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the death toll in the country may cross 10,000.Southern Bangladesh is often hit by cyclones, but experts say the latest is a category four storm, the most powerful so far in the season.
In Bangladesh, 500,000 people died in a 1970 cyclone. A similar storm claimed 143,000 lives in 1991.