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The catastrophic cyclone of April 1991: Its Impact on the economy of Bangladesh


A very severe cyclonic storm with wind speeds of over 240 km/h struck the coastal areas of Bangladesh in the full moon night of 29 April 1991. The path of the eye, close to the shore, raised a storm surge of unusual height, reportedly more than 9 m above the mean sea level, which devastated the offshore islands and the mainland coast. The damage to the physical infrastructure of the port of Chittagong and adjoining industrial area has been colossal, and recovery will take years. Death tolls from the cyclone, storm surge and its aftermath exceeded 145 000 making it one of the world's major natural disasters of this century.

This paper is concerned with examining the magnitude and intensity of the disaster. It analyses how the people of Bangladesh, and the environment in which they live, were affected by the cyclone. A brief account is presented of loss of life and of the damage suffered in various sectors, including agriculture, industry, and physical infrastructure.

The paper lays emphasis on the need of building a sufficient number of multipurpose cyclone shelters in the disaster-prone coastal areas of Bangladesh. Adequate measures should be taken for evacuating people from vulnerable areas and putting them into these shelters in the event of a cyclonic storm. Simplification of the current cyclone warning system is recommended.

The difficulties of providing relief to the survivors are discussed. And finally, the need for improvement of the communication infrastructure in the coastal areas is highlighted.

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Khalil, G.M. The catastrophic cyclone of April 1991: Its Impact on the economy of Bangladesh. Nat Hazards 8, 263–281 (1993).

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Key words

  • Bangladesh
  • cyclone
  • storm surge
  • economic damage
  • casualties
  • cyclone shelter