November 16, 2007

The aftermath of Hurricane Sidr: signs of progress? & BBC are reporting:
- At least 250 people killed. Barguna had 77 deaths, Barisal 52, Patuakhali 40, Bagerhat 15, Khulna 11, Gopalganj 10, Bhola 15, Satkhira 13 and Faridpur 10, as storm surges nearly five-feet high slammed into 15 coastal districts.

- Hundreds of fishing boats caught in the cyclone failed to return to shore. Red Crescent officials have said at least three villages were flattened by the storm. Search and rescue efforts had been initiated by civilians, army and police, and the casualty figures will rise.

- The storm packing winds of 240 kph (150mph) continued its severest onslaughts on the southern coast from about 5:30pm Thursday to early Friday when it weakened into a tropical storm and was moving across the country to the northeast.

- Communications and electricity supplies snapped across the country. Most parts of the coastal region was virtually blacked out during the night.

- The capital Dhaka had power and communications link cut off as driving rains flooded some streets and strong winds sent billboards flying through the air. Buildings and roofs were shaken by fierce winds during the night, and that by morning power and water supplies had been cut.

- Earlier hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated or sought safe shelter before the storm hit the coast, but some were left behind.

- International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) bulletin on its cyclone preparedness programme (CPP) incorporates the services of over 34,000 BDRCS volunteers, reaching approximately 1.1 million people.

Considering the force of the cyclone which is bigger than Katrina in USA (2004) and the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh I would say that the casualties are much much lower. These days Bangladesh has learnt the lessons. Now it has more sophisticated early warning systems and cyclone shelters to save hundreds of thousands of people.

I still remember the TIME article “cyclone of Death” published just after the 1991 cyclone (left more than 140,000 dead) which quoted from Rabindranath Tagore’s Sea of waves:

In the twinkling of an eye it ended! None could see

When life was, and when life finished!

James Walsh wrote:
“A world used to human-scale catastrophes — plane crashes, say, that kill a few hundred at most — cannot absorb the biblical dooms that visit Bangladesh. Straddling the conjoined mouths of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, two of the Indian subcontinent’s mightiest rivers, the country is regularly drowned by flood crests surging downstream or scourged by whirlwinds from the sea. Of the 20th century’s 10 deadliest storms, seven have devoured their victims at the head of the Bay of Bengal.”
BBC report about memories of the 1970 cyclone:
Water mark more than 20 feet high in Bhola. Hundreds of thousands of people were caught in sleep when death came along with tidal surges via the river (there was no early warning system).
Facing the challenge of this mega cyclone Sidr and keeping the figures under couple of hundreds in a populous land (of 140 million) is truly a sign of progress if one should compare. Its true because of lack of resources we cannot expect Bangladesh to be more perfect in disaster management but this proves Bangladesh is on the right path and more awareness and experience are needed to tackle the changing climates and the wraths of the nature.

Razib asks is Sidr a sign of progress?
"I repeat this litany to offer optimistic note: things are getting better! Bangladesh is a depressing kleptocracy, but it muddles along, and the arrow of progress is in a positive direction."
Earlier in 2005 I wrote about Hurricane Katrina and compared with Bangladesh. Commentators praised the survival instincts of the Bangladeshi people, their ingenuity in the face of adversity and their culture of hard work and the courage to start all over again.

Update I: Reuters reports quoting local authorities and Red Crescent Society that the the death toll has risen to 348. The official count is 247. Fakhruddin Ahmed, chief of Bangladesh's army-backed interim government, flew to some devastated districts on the coasts of the Bay of Bengal on Friday, to see the extent of damage to lives and property.

Care rushed aid to affected areas.

Stunned villagers recount storm terror:
Madaripur, Bangladesh - "I have never seen such a huge storm in my life," Nazrul Islam said, surveying the wreckage after his house - and hundreds like it - were wiped out by the fury of the Bangladesh cyclone.

"Trees have fallen across every street and there is not a single house with a tin roof left, the roofs were blown away and smashed by the wind. Now they are lying all over the place."

Patuakhali: "We shut up all the doors and windows but the storm was so powerful that everything was shaking, we thought the whole building was going to be blown away."
BBC: In pictures: Cyclone strikes Bangladesh, Eyewitness accounts.

Update II:Just spoke to parents in Dhaka. The immediate crisis is the absence of electricity because of damage in the national grid. Water and Petrol pumps are not working and may soon lead to crisis and panic. Many TV channel going on and off air because of electricity problems. Telecommunication network disrupted. The uncultured project updates about the day after in the Capital Dhaka:
The sound of generators now fills the streets of Dhaka - power hasn’t come back since last night. I was kind of hoping that this would be like other blackouts I’ve experienced - where some regions would have power and others not. But, after talking to relatives in Shantinagar, Mohakhali DOHS, Gulshan/Baridhara - it seems like this is a city-wide blackout. That’s a first during my stay here in Bangladesh.


Sidr strikes Bangladesh

Cyclone Sidr: Blogger experiences and reactions


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