RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
A huge relief operation is under way in Bangladesh. It's for the victims of a massive cyclone that hit last week and killed more than 3,000 people there. At least 1,000 remained missing; a million more are homeless. Rescue workers have yet to reach a large part of the area along the Bay of Bengal, where the storm struck.
We called Kate Conradt, who is the emergency response communications director for the aid group Save the Children. She joined the rescue workers along the coast of Bangladesh.
And what is the current situation where you are?
Ms. KATE CONRADT (Save the Children): Currently, we're in a district called Barguna, which is right on the Bay of Bengal, where - near where the eye of the storm hit. So there is some extreme tidal search damage and wind damage. You just see trees standing; it's not like Hurricane Katrina, say, that wiped out an entire coast, but we're seeing extreme pockets of devastation. And it looks like the rice crop is gone for the year, so there's going to be some long-term concern.
MONTAGNE: And what exactly are you able to do for the people? I mean what are the people, say, coming in and needing and looking like?
Ms. CONRADT: Well, we're working with the communities, and there are a lot people without shelter, quite frankly. And they went and evacuated before the storm - many of them - but they came back to where their houses were to gather up of their meager possessions and they are trying to piece those together, so you see this huge salvage operation going on. The houses are made of corrugated steel, and so they're gathering it back up, trying to put something together, but they have nothing. Shelter is a critical issue; food is a critical issue, between losing the rice crop, losing their home and everything in it. Hunger is going to be a long-term issue.
MONTAGNE: And how quickly and how massively has international aid or aid generally come in?
Mr. CONRADT: Well, a lot of aid groups, including Save the Children - there are a number of us who are working on the ground. Save the Children has been here since 1971. So in the district where we have programs for maternal health and child health and malnutrition, we reacted immediately.
We've also been working on disaster preparedness with the government of Bangladesh and with other NGOs to warn people, prepare them for disasters, and hopefully make it easier to get through. So we had people stationed on the ground when the cyclone hit, and they went out immediately to assess the situation. We pre-deployed supplies, so we were able to start distributing probably within a day and a half of the storm. Now, we still need supplies, and fresh water is an issue, food is an issue, but we're doing the best we can.
MONTAGNE: Well - so as you've described it, there was some preparation for the storm, or certainly the aftermath. But could anything have been done to prevent the devastation that was caused by this huge cyclone?
Ms. CONRADT: I'm no weather expert, but I don't - you know, it was a hundred-and-fifty-mile-an-hour wind, 15-foot tidal surge. I would think it's pretty hard to prepare for. I mean, we had a similar storm in Hurricane Katrina, and houses built to a different standard, and we still lost them. so it's a tough one to get through.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. CONRADT: My pleasure.
MONTAGNE: Kate Conradt is the emergency response communications director for Save the Children, and she spoke to us from along the coast of Bangladesh.
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