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. Bangladesh cyclone like 'mini-tsunami': UN official

by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Nov 23, 2007
The impact of cyclone Sidr on Bangladesh can be compared to a "mini-tsunami" and there is a continued urgent need for international aid, the United Nations humanitarian affairs office said Friday.

"It's essentially a mini-tsunami," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"When you see the damage caused on the coast, they are just the same sort of images we saw after the tsunami" that struck the Indian Ocean in December 2004, she told journalists.

Nearly five million people have been affected by the cyclone, half of whom need immediate livelihood and life-saving relief, OCHA said.

OCHA has already granted 15 million dollars (10 million euros) in aid and called on international donors to continue their generosity.

The World Bank has pledged up to 250 million dollars for food imports, medical supplies and cash grants, while Britain has pledged more than five million dollars and the United States around 3.5 million dollars.

"We hope that this trend continues," Byrs said.

Numerous UN agencies from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the UN children's fund (UNICEF) are involved in the aid effort.

UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau said the humanitarian situation in Bangladesh was "absolutely, totally catastrophic."

Half of all those affected by the cyclone are children, who are particularly vulnerable to disease in the wake of the disaster.

"Without access to clean water and sanitation, children are especially at risk of diarrhoeal and other waterborne diseases which can be life-threatening," UNICEF warned in a statement.

Many children have also lost or become separated from their parents in the disaster, and UNICEF has set up special ten "child friendly spaces" in the three worst affected districts to trace and register these children.

"Separated and unaccompanied children are living without care, security and support facilities. These children are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation," UNICEF child protection officer Aissa Sow said in a statement.

The WHO said that 523,000 people in nine of the 12 worst affected districts are in need of medical supplies, and around 1.3 million people require urgent sanitation assistance.

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Padang: a major Indonesian city threatened by disaster
Jakarta (AFP) Nov 19, 2007
International scientists are concerned about the growing threat of an earthquake or a tsunami in the Indonesian city of Padang, which has 800,000 inhabitants.

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