Disaster management and cyclone warning system in Bangladesh

Monowar Hossain Akhand
Ministry of Establishment, 19 Dhalka Nagar Lane, P.O.: Gandaria, Dhaka -1204, Bangladesh.
Tel.: +880-31-621005, Fax: +880-2-956-8735,
E-mail: kamal@bdcom.com / monowarakhand@yahoo.com

Bangladesh is a disaster prone country in the world. Cyclones, storm surges, floods etc extract a heavy toll on lives and animals and damage valuable property almost every year, disrupting the total development activities of the country. About 120 million people live within 144,000 sq.km of land. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and suffers heavy casualties in a disaster. It is estimated that a total 775,303 people died in the coastal areas and offshore islands of Bangladesh within the last 222 years (17751997) time, only due to cyclone and storm surges. The main causes of these huge casualties were:(1) a weak cyclone warning and weather forecasting system, (2) often no cyclone/ storm came, despite of high warning signals and (3) no disaster awareness programmes were taken in before. About 15.0 million people live in the vulnerable areas, covering 21,000 sq.km in the coastal and offshore islands of Bangladesh which cover 14.8 % of the land area of the county. A total of 1350 cyclone shelters are located now in this zone. They can accommodate 1.3 million people. About 2.3 million more people can take refuge in the school and office buildings, altogether 4.0 million people could thus be accommodated, but the remaining 11.0 million people (about 73.3 %) are still unsafe. The Government of Bangladesh has given emphasis and priority to develop the weather forecasting system using satellite imageries and computer methods. So, now cyclone warning signals can be given and disseminated to the community/vulnerable people at the earliest time, by radio, television and information media at frequent intervals in the event that a cyclone strikes. Bangladesh has already established a set up of Disaster Management Bureau to co-ordinate disaster management through national to local level to persue the objectives of the IDNDR to develop disaster awareness. A success has been achieved during the last May 19, 1997 cyclone time, which was of similar intensity as the May 25, 1985 cyclone which had killed 11,069 persons. But this time - due to early warning system and taking proper precautionary measures - only 127 people died. The paper discusses the disaster management and the development of a cyclone warning system in Bangladesh.