Cyclone ‘Remal’ ravages southern part of Bangladesh

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Cyclone Reman, Bangladesh, Khulna

On the night of May 26, Cyclone Remal, a severe cyclonic storm, unleashed its fury on the coastal regions of Bangladesh, particularly devastating the district of Khulna. The cyclone impacted over 400,000 people, causing widespread destruction to homes and infrastructure. The powerful winds and heavy rains uprooted trees, toppled electric and telephone poles, and triggered a wind-driven surge that inundated large areas of the Sundarbans and embankments in low-lying regions. District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Md. Abdul Karim reported that 68 unions in nine upazilas of Khulna were significantly affected by the cyclone.

Cyclone Remal’s impact was catastrophic, with 50,000 homes destroyed, leaving thousands of families displaced and in desperate need of shelter and basic necessities. The tidal surge exacerbated the situation by flooding numerous villages, making recovery efforts even more challenging. The cyclone also caused extensive damage to hundreds of shrimp enclosures, standing crops, and numerous thatched houses, further devastating the local economy.

The Khulna District Administration, alongside various agencies, has been working tirelessly to rehabilitate the affected populations. The coordinated efforts of the Khulna District Administration, Mongla Port Authority, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Coast Guard (BCG) of Mongla West Zone, Fire Service, and Civil Defence have been instrumental in mitigating the impact of the cyclone and providing immediate relief to the affected areas.

One of the key successes in the aftermath of Cyclone Remal was the efficient evacuation of over 200,000 people. Deputy Commissioner of Khulna, Khondokar Yasir Arefin, reported that these individuals were moved to 604 cyclone shelters before the storm made landfall. This proactive measure significantly reduced the potential for casualties and ensured that those in the cyclone’s path had a safe place to take refuge.

Over 5,500 volunteers from various organizations, including the Red Crescent and Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP), have been actively involved in the relief operations. Additionally, 1,100 more volunteers from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined the efforts, working alongside 168 medical teams to provide essential healthcare services to those affected by the storm. The comprehensive response from these volunteers and medical teams has been vital in addressing the immediate needs of the cyclone victims.

The relief efforts have been bolstered by the distribution of essential supplies to the affected communities. Abdul Karim highlighted that approximately 2.5 lakh metric tonnes of rice, Taka 5 lakh in cash, and 2,000 packets of dry food have been distributed in the worst-hit upazilas of Koyra, Dakop, and Paikgachha. These resources have provided much-needed sustenance to the displaced families and helped stabilize the situation in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone.

The cyclone’s impact extended beyond human settlements, causing significant damage to the region’s infrastructure and natural environment. The Water Development Board (WDB) officials reported that around 61 kilometers of embankments in Khulna, Satkhira, and Bagerhat were partially damaged. This damage allowed saline water to breach the embankments, flooding hundreds of villages in Koyra, Paikgachha, and Dakop upazilas. Sub-divisional engineer Liakat Ali of the WDB confirmed the breaches and noted the efforts of local villagers to repair the embankments and prevent further intrusion of saline water.

The Sundarbans, a critical mangrove forest and UNESCO World Heritage site, also suffered from the cyclone. Abu Naser Mohsin Hossain, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarban West, indicated that the intensity of damage to the Sundarbans could not be immediately determined. The ecological significance of the Sundarbans makes it imperative to evaluate and address the damage to this vital ecosystem promptly.

Cyclone Remal disrupted essential services, including electricity supply in various coastal villages. Fallen trees and damaged poles halted traffic and hindered the restoration of normalcy in many areas. Efforts are underway to clear the debris and restore power and communication lines, ensuring that affected communities can resume their daily activities as soon as possible.

The Bangladesh Meteorological Department, in its 19th special bulletin, reported that Cyclone Remal had weakened into a deep land depression while moving northwards. The storm is expected to continue weakening, moving northeastwards and gradually dissipating. Maritime ports of Payra and Mongla have been advised to lower the danger signal from number 10 to local cautionary signal number three. Similarly, the maritime ports of Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram have been advised to lower the danger signal from number nine to local cautionary signal number three.

Fishing boats and trawlers over the North Bay have been advised to remain in shelter until the morning of May 28 and then proceed with caution. This advisory ensures the safety of fishermen and prevents further loss of life and property.

Despite the extensive preparations and swift response, Cyclone Remal claimed the lives of at least 10 people. The deceased were identified as Jalal Sikder (55), Md Moksed (28), Lokman Hossain (58), Jahangir (50), Maisha (4), Moneza Khatun (54), Md Shaheed (27), Shawkat Moral (65), Lal Chan Moral (36), and Saiful Islam Ridoy (26). Seven people died in the Barishal division, with three in Bhola, three in Barishal, and one in Patuakhali. In Khulna, two people died due to the cyclone’s impact.

The cyclone caused significant damage to homes, with more than 123,000 homes in Khulna division reported damaged, and among them, some 31,000 homes were completely destroyed. The extensive damage to homes and infrastructure has left many families in dire need of assistance.

Hundreds of fish enclosures have been washed away in Khulna due to Cyclone Remal, causing financial losses estimated at Tk 168 crore. The primary data indicates that the cyclone affected 4,52,200 people in Khulna, damaging 76,904 houses. The destruction of fisheries and crops has added to the economic burden on the affected communities, necessitating significant support for recovery and rehabilitation.

The State Minister of Bangladesh for Disaster Management and Relief, Mohibbur Rahman, reported that 37,58,096 people across 19 districts in the coastal region were affected by Cyclone Remal. A total of 107 upazilas and 914 unions and municipalities have been impacted. Despite the preparations, the cyclone caused substantial damage and loss of life.

The Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources took measures to deal with the cyclone, including opening control rooms and suspending power supply to ensure safety. With the improvement of the situation, efforts are underway to restore the power transmission and distribution system gradually.

The swift and coordinated response to Cyclone Remal has played a crucial role in mitigating the disaster’s impact and providing immediate relief to the affected populations. The efforts of the Khulna District Administration, various government agencies, volunteers, and NGOs have been instrumental in addressing the needs of those affected by the cyclone. As the region moves towards recovery, continued support and rehabilitation efforts will be essential to restore normalcy and rebuild the lives and livelihoods of the cyclone-impacted communities in Khulna. The road to recovery will be long, but with sustained efforts, the affected areas can hope to rebuild stronger and more resilient.

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