Dhaka: At least 26 people were killed in nine southern districts of Bangladesh as Cyclone Bulbul ravaged through those in the past two days. Most of the victims were killed when trees fell on them. Some of the deaths were also attributed to drowning and collapsed homes, according to officials. Meanwhile, the coast guard, with the help of police and locals, recovered the bodies of nine fishermen from the Meghna river in Barishal.
Apart from the loss of lives, the cyclone damaged over 100,000 houses, uprooted thousands of trees and flooded many fisheries in Khulna, Bagerhat, Satkhira, Patuakhali, Barishal, Barguna, Bhola, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Chandpur, Madaripur, Shariatpur and Gopalganj districts. Around 300,000 hectares of cropland was damaged in these coastal districts, the lower parts of which were inundated as the cyclone whipped up tidal surges four to five feet higher than usual tide.
With memories of past cyclones still fresh, some experts had feared much worse, but improved early warning systems and a large number of shelters helped the authorities lessen the cyclone’s impact. In 2009, Bangladesh was hit by Cyclone Aila, which left over 200 people dead. Two years prior to that, Cyclone Sidr had ravaged the country, leaving a trail of nearly 4,000 bodies.
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Md Enamur Rahman said the government’s prompt response minimised the damage from “Bulbul”. “As part of the immediate response, for the first time in the country’s history more than 21,60,000 people were successfully evacuated and moved to 5,587 cyclone shelters in coastal districts,” he said.
Bulbul was initially categorised as a “very severe cyclone”, but it lost strength when it entered Bangladesh around midnight on Saturday. The cyclone had earlier made landfall at Sagar Island in the southern tip of India’s West Bengal.
The full scale of the destruction, however, cannot be measured yet as electricity supply and telephone connections have not been resumed in the southern districts hit by the calamity. “Due to disruptions to power supply, we couldn’t collect complete data on the damage yet. We are working on it,” Rahman said.