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Why relatively fewer people died? The case of Bangladesh’s Cyclone Sidr

Abstract

Cyclone Sidr, a Category IV storm, struck the southwestern coast of Bangladesh on November 15, 2007 killing 3,406 people. Despite a similar magnitude, Sidr claimed far fewer lives than Cyclone Gorky, also a Category IV storm, which struck Bangladesh in 1991 causing an estimated 140,000 fatalities. The relatively low number of deaths experienced with Sidr is widely considered the result of Bangladesh government’s efforts to provide timely cyclone forecasting and early warnings, and successful evacuation of coastal residents from the projected path of Cyclone Sidr. Using information collected from both primary and secondary sources, this study identified several other reasons for the unexpectedly lower mortality associated with Cyclone Sidr relative to Cyclone Gorky. Fewer casualties may be attributed to a number of physical characteristics of Cyclone Sidr, such as duration of the storm and storm surge, landfall time and site, varied coastal ecology, and coastal embankment. This article recommends improvements to the cyclone warning systems, establishment of more public cyclone shelters, and implementation of an education campaign in coastal areas to increase the utilization of public shelters for future cyclone events.

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Acknowledgments

I wish to thank the Natural Hazards Center at the University Colorado-Boulder, CO; Dean’s Office, College of Arts and Sciences and Provost Office, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS for funding this study. I also like to thank Munshi Khaled and Bankim Rakhit for participating in the field survey in Bangladesh and Dr. Abdur Rob, Chairman of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and Selvaratnam Sinnadurai, Head of Delegation of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for their support in collecting relevant information for this study. For preparing maps for this article, I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Mitchel Stimers and Keela Andrews, both are graduate students of geography at Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.

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Correspondence to Bimal Kanti Paul.

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Paul, B.K. Why relatively fewer people died? The case of Bangladesh’s Cyclone Sidr. Nat Hazards 50, 289–304 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-008-9340-5

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Keywords

  • Cyclone Sidr
  • Cyclone Gorky
  • Early warning systems
  • Evacuation orders
  • Coastal Bangladesh
  • The Sundarbans