Cyclone Remal Batters Bangladesh and India, Causing Massive Displacement

Mon May 27 2024
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DHAKA, Bangladesh: Fierce gales and crashing waves lashed the low-lying coasts of Bangladesh and India on Monday as Cyclone Remal, an intense tropical storm, began to weaken while moving further inland. The cyclone, which made landfall on Sunday night, has claimed two lives, according to Kamrul Hasan, Secretary of Bangladesh’s Disaster Management Ministry.

Communication has been severely disrupted by the storm, with recorded wind speeds reaching up to 111 kilometers (69 miles) per hour, as reported by Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik, a senior weather forecaster at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. “The severe cyclone will continue to pound Bangladesh coast until 10:00 am (0400 GMT),” Mallik stated, noting that heavy rains would persist, eventually causing the cyclone to weaken into a storm.

Over recent decades, cyclones have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh. However, the frequency of superstorms hitting the country’s densely populated coastal areas has increased significantly due to climate change, rising from one per year to as many as three.

An agency reporter in the affected area described continuous heavy rain and extreme winds since Sunday evening, with tall buildings being battered, trees uprooted, and tin roofs torn off homes and blown away. Approximately one million people in Bangladesh and neighboring India sought refuge in concrete storm shelters to escape the dangerous waves.

Most of Bangladesh’s coastal regions are only one to two meters (three to six feet) above sea level, making them particularly vulnerable to high storm surges that can devastate villages. The danger signal has been increased to its highest level by the authorities.

Kamrul Hasan reported no immediate severe damage, but noted, “Embankments in several places have been breached or submerged, inundating some coastal areas.” In India’s West Bengal, senior state government minister Bankim Chandra Hazra reported that the cyclone had blown off the roofs of hundreds of houses, uprooted thousands of mangrove trees, and toppled electricity poles, leaving large parts of the affected areas without power. “Storm surges and rising sea levels have breached a number of embankments,” Hazra added. “Some island villages are flooded.”

In total, at least 800,000 people in Bangladesh fled their coastal homes, while more than 150,000 people in India were evacuated from the vast Sundarbans mangrove forest, where the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers meet the sea. Mallik noted that the Sundarbans acted as a natural shield, helping to dissipate the storm’s impact.

Scientists attribute the increase in storm frequency and intensity to climate change. Despite this, advancements in forecasting and more effective evacuation planning have dramatically reduced the death toll from such events.

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