Saturday, April 20, 2024

Grass, vines saved his life

Bangladeshi worker Liton had to eat grass and shrubs to stay alive in Libya.
He returned home yesterday ending his ordeal in the north African nation.
Mohammad Liton, 40, was taken straight to Dhaka Medical College Hospital after landing at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
He said he along with hundreds of other labourers was “overjoyed” to see the grass and shrubs in the desert in Benghazi after spending six days without any food.
The workers then devoured the grass blades and shrubs.
“I had convinced myself that I would eat sand if I had to for survival,” Mohammad Liton told The Daily Star.
“Seeing the grass and shrubs in the desert… seeing something that we could put into our mouth… it was overwhelming,” he recalled.
Liton worked at a government construction site at Benghazi with some 1,500 Bangladeshis and 1,000 Egyptians.
After the unrest broke out, the rebel forces looted the food storehouse of the site, leaving the workers without any food or supplies.
“Fortunately, we were able to put away some bread and other dry food before they looted the storehouse,” he added.
However, the food they had stored lasted only six days. The hundreds of labourers hiding at the factory spent the next six days without any food.
It was on the 12th day that the rebels finally let the labourers come out of the factory.
“Many of us were barely conscious and had to be dragged around by others,” Liton said.
When the labourers asked the rebels where they would go, the soldiers told them to go wherever they wanted including their home countries.
“There was plenty of drinking water in Benghazi, but there was no food,” he said, adding, “When we asked the soldiers for food, they fired blank shots to shoo us away.”
The labourers split themselves into different groups, each consisting of hundreds of people, and started walking towards unknown destinations.
At this stage, the group Liton was in came across the grass.
“It was the most joyous and beautiful site we saw in weeks,” Liton said.
They were picked up by a United Nations team within a few hours.
The labourers spent a few days at a seaside UN camp where food was scarce too.
“Once again there was water, but not enough bread for us. Everyone had to fight for one tiny piece of bread,” Liton said.
There were hundreds of workers who could not get hold of one loaf of bread for an entire day or two, he added.
After spending three days at the UN camp, Liton was taken to Cairo. Some 600 labourers took a flight from Cairo to Dhaka yesterday.
For the first time in 29 days, Liton had his first square meal on the plane.
“I did not think I would survive, I thought I’d die from starvation,” he said.
Parveen Begum, Liton’s wife, thanked the almighty to see her husband alive.
Liton was a fish trader at Ashkana Bazar in Dhaka. He went to Libya 18 months ago to earn a promised salary worth Tk 25,000 per month from a construction company.
However, he received Tk 7,000 per month and had to return home without five months’ pay.
“I had a cell phone when I was hiding in that construction site, but it did not have any reception,” Liton told The Daily Star.
As he hung between life and death, all Liton could think of was the faces of his mother, wife, two sons and a daughter.
It was on the 12th day of his hiding when he had reception for a minute or two. That was when Liton called his wife Parveen Begum.
He broke down in tears and asked her to pray for him.
Seventeen days later, Parveen was standing by her husband.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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