Cyclone leaves 16 dead, thousands homeless in Bangladesh and India

Representative Photo.

Millions of people in low-lying regions of Bangladesh and India on Monday surveyed the extensive damage left by a powerful cyclone, international media reported.

The climate-related disaster claimed at least 16 lives, destroyed thousands of homes, damaged seawalls, and inundated cities.

Residents continued to face strong winds and heavy rain as they tried to recover their belongings, just a day after ‘Cyclone Remal’ made landfall with intense gales and towering waves.

Bangladesh’s State Minister for Disaster Management, Mohibbur Rahman, reported that at least 10 people were killed in the country, with some drowning and others being crushed by collapsing houses.

In neighbouring India, Sumit Gupta, a senior government official from West Bengal, stated that six people died, including three from electrocution and others from falling debris.

A local reporter described the devastation, noting that villages were flooded by storm surges, tin roofs were torn off, trees were uprooted, and power lines were downed.

Rahman highlighted that 3.75 million people were affected in Bangladesh, with 35,483 homes destroyed and another 115,992 damaged.

In recent decades, hundreds of thousands have died from cyclones in Bangladesh, and the frequency of these superstorms has increased from around one per year to up to three, exacerbated by climate change. Some locals noted that this cyclone was stronger and lasted longer than previous ones, with 62-year-old businessman Uttom Kumar Das describing the wind as “extreme” and unusually prolonged.

In Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, streets were waist-deep in water after receiving 240 millimeters (9.5 inches) of rain. Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik, a senior weather forecaster, reported that Remal’s peak wind speeds reached 111 kilometers per hour. Efforts were underway to rescue about 100,000 people.

In Kolkata, India, residents waded through ankle-deep water. Cyclone-driven waves breached a significant embankment on Bangladesh’s Manpura island, according to government administrator Showkat Ali of the Barisal district.

About a million people fled inland for safety, with 250,000 sheltering in concrete storm shelters in Bangladesh.

Improved forecasting and effective evacuation strategies have significantly reduced death tolls, despite the increase in storms due to climate change.

In West Bengal, India, the cyclone blew off the roofs of hundreds of houses and uprooted thousands of mangrove trees and electricity poles, senior state government minister Bankim Chandra Hazra said. Several embankments were breached, leading to flooding in island villages.

Sumita Mondal, a 36-year-old woman, took refuge away from the coast with her young son, who cried for food during the ordeal.

Bangladeshi weather expert Mallik noted that the Sundarbans mangrove forest helped mitigate the storm’s impact.

However, senior forest official Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain expressed concern that the storm surge had contaminated crucial freshwater sources with salt water, posing a threat to wildlife, including the endangered Bengal tigers.

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