Tens of millions of people are directly in the path of a category 5 cyclone that has arrived onshore in Bangladesh this morning, and many of them have no where to go.
KHULNA, Bangladesh (AP) — A cyclone packing 150 mph winds slammed Bangladesh’s southeast coast late Thursday, killing at least 41 people and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes, officials said.
Cyclone Sidr leveled numerous homes as it sent driving rains and high waves across the lowland coastal areas before weakening to a tropical storm by Friday morning, according to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.
Local government officials across the region said that at least 41 people had been killed, mainly from collapsing homes and falling debris, and 650,000 people had been evacuated.
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.
As the BBC reports, even with 650,000 evacuees millions more may be in mortal danger.
An estimated 10 million people live in Bangladesh’s coastal areas and there is simply not enough room for all of them in the country’s 500 or more shelters.
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world: nearly all the country is low lying and vulnerable to flooding.
The huge logistical exercise of dealing with such a large scale natural calamity is certain to stretch the resources of the authorities.
In the last big cyclone of 1991 winds of around 250kmh (155 mph) battered the south.
On that occasion, there was a six metre (20 foot) storm surge inland over a wide area, killing an estimated 138,000 people and leaving as many as 10 million homeless and sweeping away entire villages.
I suppose we’ll know a heck of a lot more about damages and loss of life in the next 48 hours. Let’s hope it’s not a disaster of the proportions of the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami…