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Hailstorm before Eid: Many in Sylhet have to choose tin sheets over clothes

Alim Uddin, a day labourer from the Badaghat area of Sylhet Sadar, saved some money to purchase Eid clothes for his daughter.

However, he has been compelled to use the money to buy corrugated tin sheets as his house was damaged by the severe hailstorm that wreaked havoc in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts on the night of 31 March.

“The roof of my house was completely damaged in the hailstorm. I had been using a temporary polythene roof for two days, but it was torn apart by yesterday’s rain. So now I have come to buy tin with all the money I had saved,” he told The Business Standard while buying tin sheets at Al Salim Mansion in Sobhanghat area of Sylhet city.

“I had saved some money to buy new clothes for my daughter on Eid. Now all the money has to be spent on buying tin,” he said.

The brief but intense 15-minute storm, lasting from 10:15pm to 10:30pm, damaged thousands of houses. It was particularly the tin roofs of these houses that were extensively damaged by the large and heavy hailstones.

As a result, the demand for tin sheets has surged in Sylhet as people are purchasing them to repair their houses.

The surge in demand has left stores with limited stocks. Some sellers have been accused of jacking up prices, sparking customer anger.

According to local sources, around 50,000 families were affected by the hailstorm, disrupting their Eid preparations as they must now prioritise repairing their houses over purchasing clothes and other Eid products.

Delwar Hossain, a resident of Kumargao in Sylhet sadar upazila, said, “It started raining suddenly. Hailstones began to fall along with the rain. It felt like someone was hurling stones at the roof of my house. The tin roof of my house has been completely damaged.”

He said, “All the tin sheets need to be replaced. I had saved Tk10,000 for Eid, but I had to use this money to purchase tin sheets and repair the house. I also had to take out an additional Tk25,000 as a loan. This time, our Eid has been ruined.”

Al Salim Mansion in Sobhanghat houses several tin shops. On Wednesday, pickups, mini trucks, and push carts were seen in front of these shops, all waiting to carry tin sheets. A crowd of customers was seen swarming the tin shops.

Mahbub Ahmed, an employee of the shop named Loadi Steel Merchant, said, “The demand for tin has increased several times since 1 April. More than one hundred buyers are coming every day, and we are struggling to meet demand.”

There have also been allegations that traders have increased the price of tin due to the heightened demand.

Kasem Mia came from Shantiganj to Kalighat in Sylhet to buy tin. He said that tin, which used to cost Tk6,000 per bundle, is now being sold for Tk10,000, while tin previously priced at Tk8,000 per bundle is now being sold at Tk12,000.

However, Kazi Abdul Wadud, owner of Kazi and Sons, a tin shop in Laldighi Par in the city, denied such allegations, stating that the price has only increased slightly by Tk200 to Tk300. Depending on size and quality, each bundle of tin is now selling at Tk6,000 to Tk14,000, he said.

He further said that demand for tin has surged suddenly. Currently, no shop in Sylhet is able to meet the demand. Due to the sudden increase in pressure, additional sales staff have to be hired.

Sylhet Deputy Commissioner Sheikh Russel Hasan said, “According to initial information, about 7,000 houses have been destroyed in the hailstorm. Besides, crops on around 500 hectares of land have been damaged. The damage list has been sent to the ministry.”

He added, “Additionally, 30 bundles of tin, Tk56,000 in cash, and rice have been sent to the five most affected upazilas on an immediate basis. Further action will be taken after receiving the complete damage list.”