THATTA: Mostly barefooted and in tatters, fishermen, women and their children along with members of civil society in an emotionally charged atmosphere, many of them shedding tears, participated in a meeting to commemorate the event and victims of the 1999 cyclone.

The cyclone caused irreparable losses to the population of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin districts coastline .

The gathering was organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) to remember the victims and inaugurate the shelter rooms they have built for the community members.

People old and young who lost their near and dear ones travelled from neighbouring villages to participate in the gathering held at the village of Qadirdino Bohrio, 20-km away from coastal town of Jati, Sujawal district and shared their feelings of the past when the incident occurred and what they feel after 15 years, here on Monday in late hours.

The residents of this village recalled the haunting experience and narrated the frightening scenes they faced and how they collected bodies of their brothers and buried them in mass graves.

The cyclone with 6-7 metre high waves knocked more than 300 villages scattered on the coastal zone of Thatta, Sujawal and Badin districts, sweeping makeshift shelters, in which 450 people were killed. At least 15,000 houses were destroyed by the stormy winds.

An old man, Aroo Bhadai, said he had lost nine members of the family, including four young sons and five nephews, as they were in the open sea at the time when the waves hit them.

Bhadai has lost eyesight. His grandsons are able to run their family boats and earn a little amount to feed their family.

He told the audience that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had visited the cyclone affected area for six times in 1999 and he met Bharoo himself, assuring him support.

But, he said, the prime minister did not keep his promises.

A local woman, Mai Soomri, lost a son and four sons-in-law in the disaster. She she was still hopeful that they might be alive in Indian Jails.

“How could I believe that they are dead because I did not see their bodies,” she justifies with tears in her eyes.

“We saw the bodies of minors wrapped in stuck mud and some in the thorny shrubs,” Nooro Thaimor said, who lost his brother and cousins.

PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah in his emotional speech said it was pitiless approach of the state machinery that despite the government’s tall claims, they could not do anything to bring solace to these vulnerable people.

Earlier, the newly built shelter for the community were inaugurated.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2014

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