Cyclone casualties in Bangladesh

Posted on November 16, 2007  /  6 Comments

It appears that early warning and evacuation were effective in coastal Bangladesh. With so much attention focused on tsunamis, it is important not to neglect this very real hazard.

PS:  Now with reports coming in that deaths will exceed 1000, judgment on the efficacy of warning and evacuation will have to be reserved.   While one death is one too many, we must remember that 300000-500000 died in the 1970 Bhola cyclone which hit, the coast on November 12th.   The fact that casualties will be be counted in the 1000s and not 100,000s is progress.   More needs to be done, underlining the importance of the continuing work to improve early warning and preparedness.

Powerful Cyclone Kills 242 in Bangladesh – New York Times

A cyclone that slammed into Bangladesh’s coast with 150 mph winds killed at least 242 people, leveled homes and forced the evacuation of 650,000 villagers before heading inland and losing strength Friday, officials said.Cyclone Sidr roared across the country’s southwestern coast late Thursday with driving rain and high waves. The storm left about 242 villagers, most of them from falling debris, said Nahid Sultana, an official at a cyclone control room in Dhaka.

By early Friday, the cyclone had weakened into a tropical storm and was moving across the country to the northeast. The department said that while skiles remained overcast, wind speed had fallen to 37 mph.

Storm surges nearly 4 feet high inundated low-lying areas and some offshore islands in the 15 coastal districts in the cyclone’s path. Communications with remote forest areas and offshore islands were temporarily lost.

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  1. The latest toll is 2,000 deaths. Might be more. This is no joke.

    How come a cyclone come from nowhere with no warnings? Even we knew hours, if not days before Katrina came. It was all over the net. But Bangladeshis caught unawares.

    Is that just because Bangladesh is poor? So nobody cares.

    I would like to know how many international news channels passed this warning. In case of Katrina they all did.

  2. Hi Ajay, thanks for making this important point. I agree with you.

    First of all, my condolences to Bangla brothers and sisters. We are sad to hear about the calamity, which in my opinion, should not have happened in a time we talk so much about the marvels of technology.

    Natural disasters frequently remind us the importance of staying connected and informed. Isolation and ignorance make people vulnerable. The massive death toll in the aftermath of any disaster in this part of the world has more to do with the lack of the communication and information infrastructure rather than the lack of other resources. People die not only because there is no effective disaster warning and evacuation mechanism, but also there is no communication in the aftermath to support and provide relief to victims at the right time. Even in a poor country, disaster management would be much better if right ICT infrastructure is in place.

    Government officials are happy to assure that ‘every possible step’ has been taken to avoid disasters, but repetition of the same calamity proves we still have long way to go. No third world government can assure its population is protected from natural disasters unless the issues of ‘connectivity’ and ‘education’ are addressed. In the 21st century, ‘empowering people’ means not just making them rich but making them ‘connected’ and ‘informed’ as well. Unfortunate incidents like these will be repeated till we realize that simple point.

    One may argue Bangladesh already has the ICT infrastructure, but it still fails the acid test. Hazar kms of dark fiber means nothing unless it works for the people. How many knew this hazard in advance? Was the time of warning adequate for them to take precautionary actions? Were they educated/informed about these actions? Did all the links in the disaster management chain worked well? Does not this repeatedly remind us that no matter what we assume still there are weaker links in the disaster management chain?

    I have addressed these issues in detail in ‘ICT for Disaster Management’ primer released few months back. (PDF version available at The governments now have two options. Either built the right ICT infrastructure and protect people or let the same process repeat, may not be in Bangladesh next time.

  3. It’s a shame what happened to Bangladesh. I hope the world steps up and helps them.

  4. i think that this site is usless. i really wanted to find out information on bhola cuclone/ hurrican and there is no info on it at all. this web site is MISSLEADING!!!!!!!!
    / h

  5. You want the Bhola cyclone; you search for the Bhola cyclone. The time taken to complain could have been better used to type Bhola cyclone on google!

  6. hey samarajiva its not going to help jarrod is it? he’s right this website is a waste