Bangladesh: Hurricane Sidr and the aftermath

Sidr is a category 4 Hurricane (deadlier than Katrina) raged its severest onslaughts packing winds of 240 kph (150mph) on the southern coast of Bangladesh from about 5:30pm Thursday to early Friday. Now it has weakened into a tropical storm and is moving across the country to the northeastern part into India.

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated thanks to localized early warning systems in place (using microphone canvassing, radio bulletins etc), airports suspended flight operations and sea ports ceased operations. When the Hurricane struck communications and electricity supplies were snapped across the country. Most parts of the coastal region were 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. And these were being updated by the countries 24 hour online news site

The Bangladeshi Blogosphere was keeping their eyes on the hurricane using the many open source satellite images and tracking sites. The 3rd World View and E-Bangladesh were posting the updates of preparations, hurricane path as they emerged.

The Uncultured Project writes eye witness accounts from Dhaka, Bangladesh:

“It felt like something out of a movie. I was in a car on the way home – it was fifteen minutes to midnight. There wasn’t a soul on the street and the only sounds you could hear were the rain beating down on the streets, the noise of the wind, and the car’s engine. It was pitch black too – every home, apartment, and building as far as the eye could see had no electricity. Then – all of a sudden – a blinding bright light and a roar erupts right next to the car – just outside of my side of the car. My window then gets showered in glowing sparks.

I wasn’t in any danger – it was just a transformer exploding. But, for the first time in this whole time in Bangladesh – I was scared…

Toufiq writes from Chittagong, Bangladesh [bn]:

01:29 AM Bangladesh Time (+6 GMT). Electricity just went. Its raining heavily outside. Gusty winds are also present. I am still awake to face unknown danger. Does anybody know when the cyclone will be past Chittagong or is it really in Chittagong?

Tanvir updates [bn]:

03:00 AM Bangladesh Time (+6 GMT): The Storm is crossing Barishal and still a category 3 hurricane. It will scale down to category one in 12 hours.

37 years ago the “Bhola Cyclone” hit Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), which was the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern times. Death toll estimates range from 300,000 to as high as 500,000 because of a storm surge in the low-lying delta and almost zero early warning system.

After the 1991 cyclone which left more than 140,000 dead TIME magazine's 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. Of the 20th century’s 10 deadliest storms, seven have devoured their victims at the head of the Bay of Bengal.”

But the aftermath of Sidr show signs of devastation but not much loss of lives. The 3rd world view has updates:

- At least 250 people killed.

- 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.

Razib at the Gene Expressions asks is the low casualty 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.

concluding this report with a quote from The 3rd world view:

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.


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