Storm Surges and Bangladesh

The area that seems to be hit by the most frequent and most destructive storm surges is Bangladesh. A densely populated, low-lying country, Bangladesh sits mostly at or near sea level between India and Myanmar. It is a delta environment, built where the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers drop their sediment eroded from the Himalaya Mountains. Bangladesh is frequently flooded from high river levels, with up to 20 percent of the low-lying country being under water in any year. It also sits directly in the path of many Bay of Bengal tropical cyclones (another name for a hurricane), and has been hit by eight of the 10 most deadly hurricane disasters in world history, including Typhoon Sidr in late 2007.

On November 12 and 13, 1970, a category 3 typhoon known as the Bhola cyclone hit Bangladesh with 115-mile-per-hour (185 km/hr) winds, and a 23-foot (7-m) high storm surge that struck at the astronomically high tides of a full moon. The result was devastating, with about 500,000 human deaths and a similar number of farm animals perishing. The death toll is hard to estimate in this rural region, with estimates ranging from 300,000 to 1 million people lost in this one storm alone. Most perished from flooding associated with the storm surge that covered most of the low-lying deltaic islands on the Ganges River. The most severely hit area was in Tazmud-din Province, where nearly half the population of 167,000 in the city of Thana were killed by the storm surge. Again in 1990 another cyclone hit the same area, this time with a 20-foot (6.1-m) storm surge and 145-mile-per-hour (233.4 km/hr) winds, killing another 140,000 people and another half-million farm animals. In November 2007 Bangladesh was hit by a powerful category 5 cyclone, with 150 mph (242 km/hr) winds and was inundated with a 20-foot (6-m) high storm surge. Since the 1990 storm the area had a better warning system in place, so many more people evacuated low-lying areas before the storm. Still, it is estimated that 5,000-10,000 people perished during Typhoon Sidr, most from the effects of the storm surge.

Continue reading here: Flash Floods

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