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Bangladeshi Fisherman Describes How His Family Survived the Tidal Wave

FISHERMAN Roushan Ali, his father, two brothers, and seven children sat down to a scanty meal of rice and lentils while his wife shyly watched. Mr. Ali said he considered himself fortunate. The three-year-old girl next door had been washed away by the terrible tidal wave that followed the cyclone. In his village on Maheshkhali Island, one of the worst-hit areas on Bangladesh's battered coast, 27 villagers had lost their lives.

Shivering while he hungrily gulped a morsel of the watery rice, Ali said he had seen babies and their mothers strewn on the sandy beach after the storm.

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The storm had destroyed the tin-roofed house that he had built from the $150 he earns each month from working on fishing trawlers and on the salt and shrimp farms nearby. Unlike many in this village, the Ali family was able to save itself by clambering up a large tree and holding on.

``I kept counting my family over and over again, praying for survival,'' he said.

For four days, the fisherman was unable to find food, and the children cried with hunger.

Most food supplies in the village had been destroyed or washed away during the powerful cyclone, but Ali's family and others combed the debris for food.

They finally received rice mixed with water as relief assistance, and were able to build a makeshift shanty from straw and a tin roof.

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