Coastal communities in Bangladesh have a bittersweet relationship with the sea. It provides them with a source of income, yet it’s also responsible for their worst woes. Abu Saleh, 28, is a seasonal fisherman. He knows only too well how dangerous the sea can be especially around the time of a cyclone. When Cyclone Roanu struck Bangladesh one month ago, it resulted in strong winds, driving rain and a dramatic tidal surge – a change in sea level – of more than two metres. “When the surge came, me and my parents tried to stay afloat by clinging to water containers, said a weeping Abu. “The strong surge washed us a long way out to sea. Me and my mother never loosened our grip on the container, but my father couldn’t hold on. His father, aged 65, was one of 28 lives claimed by the cyclone. Abu and his family have been living in the village of Premashia, in Chittagong, for several generations. They know how the sea behaves during cyclones. But Roanu was different. “We have seen powerful cyclones before, but we have never seen such a high tidal surge, Abu said. Experts in the Bangladesh Red Crescent’s disaster response team said that the convergence of three natural events – a full moon, a high tide, and the cyclone’s landfall – was the reason for such a high tidal surge. Preparing and responding * Prior to the cyclone, more then 55,000 Red Crescent volunteers helped to evacuate people and spread warning messages about the approaching cyclone. * They helped to move more than half a million people to cyclone shelters and other safe places before the cyclone hit. * The cyclone destroyed 75,000 homes and left some 200,000 people homeless. * Abu’s family home was among those destroyed. The tidal surge also washed away their boats and fishing nets – their only means of earning an income – leaving them with no food, no shelter and no money. * The family are currently living under a tarpaulin, given to them by the Bangladesh Red Crescent. * They are among 239 families in their village who have received tarpaulins and cash grants of Tk3,000 (40USD) for food. The money should last them 10 days. * After that, the Red Crescent has plans for further cash grants to sustain people for two more months. * Many people in Abu’s village made a living through fish farming in inland ponds, but the tidal surge not only turned these ponds saline, but also washed away all the fish. * Red Crescent volunteers have so far drained two ponds in the area, which will be filled with rainwater in the coming monsoon. * Volunteers have reached 15,000 people with emergency shelter items and cash grants. A further 5,000 people have received clean drinking water, while 2,000 have been treated by Red Crescent mobile health teams. * The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an emergency appeal of two million Swiss Francs (around two million US Dollars) to help the Bangladesh Red Crescent assist 55,000 people affected by the cyclone. The appeal has so far received 34 per cent of the necessary funding. The International Committee of the Red Cross, and other Movement partners, are also supporting the Bangladesh Red Crescent.