22 killed as Bulbul wreaks havoc

1.2m houses damaged, 2.2m people without power

Emran Hossain | Published: 00:02, Nov 10,2019 | Updated: 23:44, Nov 11,2019


This photograph, taken on Monday, shows a tree that fell on a tin-shed house in Shariatpur during cyclone Bulbul. — Focus Bangla photo

The remnants of cyclone Bulbul around Monday noon crossed the country’s border into neighbouring Indian state of Tripura as a low leaving behind a trail of deaths and devastation in coastal Bangladesh.

At least 22 people were killed by the storm in 14 coastal districts where over a million people suffered losses after their houses were damaged, standing crops levelled and fisheries washed away.

Among the dead, the Bangladesh Coast Guard on Monday evening recovered the bodies of nine fishermen in Barishal, who had been going to Bhola from Chandpur.

‘We have recovered the bodies from the river Tentulia, an estuary of the Meghna, on the Bokandia point under Mehendiganj in Barishal at about 9:30pm,’ Coast Guard official lieutenant Mahabubul Alam Shakil told New Age from the spot.

The bodies were recovered from sunken fishing boat ‘Ammajan’ that went under the river on Saturday afternoon, he added.

‘We are looking for more bodies,’ he said.

Of the remaining dead, 12 died after being crushed under trees during the storm while another died of cardiac arrest at a cyclone shelter in Barguna.

About 2.2 million people remained without electricity till late Monday as the Rural Electrification Board struggled to restore 45,000-kilometre-long affected power lines toppled in the affected districts.

‘The storm has pushed down 2000 electric poles, damaged 308 power transformers and 1,200 household  electric meters, and snapped power lines at 15,000 points,’ said REB deputy director Hafizur Rahman.

‘The overall loss has been estimated to be worth Tk 15 crore,’ he said.

The rural power agency expected to restore electricity to the affected areas by Tuesday.

About 50,000 customers of the West Zone Power Distribution Company Limited were without electricity in Barguna and Pirojpur, said its managing director Shafique Uddin.

Two of the company’s 32 feeders were still out of operation, he said.

Mobile communications were disrupted in many affected areas as cell phone towers were razed to ground.

Retired Brigadier General SM Farhad, secretary-general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said that Bulbul had left huge impacts on the telecom network in the affected districts. Operators could provide power backup up to certain duration, maximum eight hours, which they had been trying to ensure for last couple of days, he said.

The storm made landfall on the Sunderbans coast between Sagar Island in West Bengal and Bangladesh at about 9:00pm on Saturday with the maximum wind speed of 125 kilometres per hour.

As the mangrove forest further slowed down the rapidly-losing speed of the storm it crossed into Bangladesh with the maximum wind speed of 93 kilometres early Sunday, said the Met Office.

The storm would have caused far greater devastation had the Sunderbans not taken the brunt of it, it said.

The National Disaster Response Coordination Centre in its preliminary loss assessment said that about 10.70 lakh people were affected by the storm in 325 unions across14 districts.

Khulna is the worst-hit district with 2,50,000 people affected, followed by Satkhira with 2,26,000 people affected, Jhalkathi with 200000 people affected and Bagherhat with 132,000 people affected, said the NDRCC.

Some 12,35,000 houses, mostly thatched, were partially damaged or destroyed by the storm that also brought flooding rains and lashed coastal districts for five hours as it moved north-east very slowly.

The NDRCC said that the storm also damaged crops on 1.5 lakh hectares, 314 educational institutions, 44 kilometres of coastal embankments and fisheries on 1,244 hectares.

‘These are our preliminary estimates and likely to change,’ said disaster management and relief ministry deputy secretary Kazi Tasmin Ara Ajmery.

The NDRCC and the health emergency control room said that 12 people died after being crushed under trees during the storm while another one died of cardiac arrest at a cyclone shelter in Barguna.

The deceased were identified as Promila Mandal, 52, and Alamgir Hossain, 35, of Khulna; Hamid Kazi, 65, of Patuakhali; Samia, 15, and Hira Begum, 25, of Bagherhat; Ashalata Majumder, 65, of Barishal; Noni Mondal, 55, of Pirojpur; Halima Khatun, 65, and Mohobulla, 40, of Barguna; Ali Box Chhaial, 70, and Aleya Begum, 50, of Shariatpur; and Hawladar, 70, and Moti Begum, 65, of Gopalganj.

Bulbul killed more than 10 people in India.

Vast shrimp enclosures were washed away by flooding rains and tidal surges across the affected coastal districts, according to government offices.

The NDRCC declared Satkhira, Khulna, Bagherhat, Bhola, Jhalakathi, Barishal, Barguna, Patuakhali, Feni, Pirojpur, Lakshmipur, Noakhali, Chandpur and Chattogram disaster as affected districts.

Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila nirbahi officer Kamruzzaman said that the storm turned into a nightmare at about 3:30am on Sunday with powerful winds lashing buildings with frequent thuds.

‘It continued for five hours,’ he said. 

Kamruzzaman said that each and every tree had been uprooted and lying on roads or by houses, he said adding, ‘Not a single electric pole was standing in my area either.’

Immediately after the storm, the Shyamnagar upazila administration urged people to remove trees from roads in a bid to facilitate relief operations.

Thousands of people remained in need of emergency relief, he said.

The New Age correspondent in Patuakhali said that about 10,000 people in 10 villages of Lalua union, Kolapara remained waterlogged as tidal surges in the morning gushed through a 10-kilometre-long gap in the protective embankment.

The gap had been created because of the ongoing construction of the Payra Port, said Shawkat Hossain Bishwash, chairman, Lalua union parishad.

The Water Development Board monitoring cell, however, said that dozens of points at coastal embankments in Khulna, Bagherhat, Satkhira, Pirojpur and Patuakhali experienced damage.

Khulna Circle conservator of forests Moyeen Uddin Khan told this paper that they were assessing damages caused to the Sunderbans.

He said that 83 of their offices in the affected areas suffered losses in a way or another during the storm.

Ahead of the storm, authorities had moved over 21 million people to shelters, rescheduled national level examinations, closed down maritime and river ports, the Chattogram international airport and cancelled leaves of government officials in the vulnerable areas.  

Cyclone Preparedness Programme director Ahmadul Haque told New Age that those evacuated had returned home by Sunday evening.

The maritime ports resumed operation on Sunday morning though the Met Office lowered danger signal number three on Monday morning.

River ports resumed operation on Monday morning.

Ferry operations resumed at both the Paturia-Daulatdia and Shimulia-Kathalbari ghats on Sunday morning.

The Chattogram New Age correspondent reported that Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram resumed operation after a 15-hour disruption when at least 13 flights had been cancelled.

Our Cox’s Bazar correspondent said that about 1,500 tourists stranded on St. Martin’s Island for five days returned to mainland on Monday.

In May cyclone Fani killed at least 10 people and damaged considerable property and agriculture in Bangladesh.

Forecaster AKM Nazmul Haque said that the country would experience dry weather over the next few days as no rain is likely.

In the 24 hours till 9:00am Monday, the Met Office recorded the country’s highest rainfall of 262 mm at Barishal.

The Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre said that in the 72 hours till Monday afternoon Barishal experienced 420 mm rains while Patuakhali 319 mm, Barguna 260 mm, and Noakhali 208 mm under the influence of Bulbul.

Since 1960, of the 33 historical cyclones recorded by the Met Office, 10 occurred in November, including Bulbul.

Before Bulbul, Sidr killed more than 3,000 people and caused vast destruction on November 15, 2007.

The great Bhola cyclone that killed between 300,000 and 500,000 people occurred on November 12, 1970.

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