Cyclone Sidr hits Bangladesh

by Vinay Choubey - Date: 2007-11-23 - Word Count: 456 Share This!

A cyclone killed 242 people and left much of southern Bangladesh cut off from the rest of the country before heading inland and losing strength Friday, officials said. Tropical Sidr roared across the country's southwestern coast late Thursday with driving rain and high waves, spawning a 4-foot water surge that left low-lying areas and some offshore islands under water, according to Nahid Sultana, an official at a cyclone control room in the capital, Dhaka.
Packing winds of over 100 miles an hour, the furious cyclone that swept across the low-lying watery edges of southern Bangladesh late Thursday downed trees, sent mobile telephone towers crashing and swept away mud and thatch homes. By midday today local time, the death toll of Cyclone Sidr, as it was called, stood at roughly 240, said an official reached by telephone at the control room of the Disaster Management ministry of Bangladesh.
Long vulnerable to nature's fury, Bangladesh stands to suffer even more from extreme weather events like this as a result of human-induced climate change, scientists say. It was too early for government officials and independent relief workers to quantify the total scale of damage, though it was clear that by Bangladeshi standards, the impact would likely be relatively low.
In 1991, a tropical storm claimed roughly 140,000 lives. Bangladeshi relief agencies have since then developed early warning systems and storm shelters to help people evacuate before disaster strikes. The Associated Press reported that 650,000 people had moved out of their homes. The storm weakened by today. Still, it brought distress to some of the most vulnerable people on Earth. The Indian side of the Bay of Bengal delta was largely spared. Government officials there estimated that 100,000 people had left their homes in search of safety, and while some trees and roofs had been blown away on the deltaic islands known as the Sunderbans, no casualties were reported and people had already begun returning home.
The United Nations Development Program, in pressing world leaders to take immediate steps to address climate change, argues that the increased frequency of droughts, floods and storms stands to hit the world's poor hardest and exacerbate poverty in places like Bangladesh. The agency is due to come out with details in its annual Human Development Report later this month.
The cyclone flattened thousands of flimsy straw and mud huts, uprooted trees, electricity and telephone poles, and destroyed crops and fish farms in 15 coastal districts, local government officials and witnesses said.
The worst hit areas were communities in southern Bangladesh where most of the victims were killed by falling trees or debris from collapsing homes, while some drowned after falling off boats, Sultana said.
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