When a cyclone hits... and thereafter

May 24, 2016


It was clear by the afternoon of Tuesday, May 17, 2016, that the depression over southwest Bay and adjoining areas was quickly gaining momentum to become a cyclonic storm. The trajectory suggested that it was headed for the coast of Bangladesh although the exact time of landfall was still not clear.


Caption: Houses destroyed by cyclone ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØ at Banshkhali, Chittagong

But Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), the leading disaster management body in the country whoÔÇÖs several hundred thousand volunteers and youth members across the country have always been at the forefront of pre- and post-disaster operations such as evacuation, warning message dissemination, first aid, search and rescue, had to make a move right away.


By the morning of Thursday, May 19, all the volunteers and local units of the 18 coastal districts, who were at the biggest risk of bearing the brunt of the impending disaster, were alerted through mobile text messages. The depression had by then transformed into tropical storm ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØ and was clearly headed for the coast of Bangladesh.


Having sensed the impending disaster, the priority was to get people at risk away to safety ÔÇô as quickly as possible.An evacuation drive was launched immediately on Thursday, in which members of Red Crescent Youth (RCY) assisted the volunteers of the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP), a joint initiative of the government and BDRCS, in evacuating more than 500,000 people in 14 districts over the next two days.

Caption: Red Crescent volunteers use loudspeakers to call people to evacuate before ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØ hit in CoxÔÇÖs Bazar

ÔÇ£It is not always easy to convince people about the graveness of danger posed by natural calamities. Sometimes people do not want to move out,ÔÇØ said Didarul Alam, deputy youth chief at the BDRCS CoxÔÇÖs Bazar unit.


ÔÇ£On Saturday morning [May 21], I, along with a three-member team, went to the Kutubdia Para locality in CoxÔÇÖs Bazar sadarupazila. Cyclone ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØ was already crossing the coast of Bangladesh at that time. Still the people were not ready to move out. An eviction drive was going on in the area for an airport project. They were scared that if they left their homestead and the area got washed in tidal surge, they might never get back their home,ÔÇØ Didar said.


Caption: ÔÇÿIt is not always easy to convince people about the graveness of danger posed by natural calamities. Sometimes people do not want to move out.ÔÇÖ

ÔÇ£However, when the tide water started entering their area, they realised the graveness of the danger and they started looking for the volunteers,ÔÇØ he added.


Didar said several teams of volunteers eventually managed to evacuate more than 1,500 people from that locality by a couple of trucks given to them by BDRCS.


ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØ swept 14 coastal districts of Bangladesh between May 20 evening and May 21 afternoon. Considering their own safety issues, volunteers have hardly anything to when the cyclone hits. However, as soon as the cyclones leaves, the real work begins.


Immediate Non Food Items (NFI) ÔÇô including tarpaulin, saree, lungi, oral saline, water containers ÔÇô were dispatched from the BDRCS national headquarters in Dhaka on two trucks. These NFIs are the immediate needs of the people who have taken shelter at the emergency cyclone centres.Another immediate requirement is dry food. The government has a stock of this and with help from local peopleÔÇÖs representatives and administration, Red Crescent volunteers started distributing dry food among the people at the cyclone shelters.


Initially, BDRCS set a target of reaching at least 3,000 families in the affected areas with immediate relief. For this, two things had to be done before anything else ÔÇô damage assessment and beneficiary selection.


Members of the BDRCS National Disaster Response Team (NDRT) ÔÇô 12 to be specific ÔÇô were deployed in six districts and they quickly came up with a damage assessment report in just 24 hours after ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØcrossed over. Simultaneously, RCY volunteers began door-to-door beneficiary selection.


By Tuesday, May 24, emergency relief was distributed among a total of 160 families in two districts. Over the next four days, BDRCS plans to reach another 2,840 families in six districts with the emergency relief.

ÔÇ£Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is the leading voluntary rescue and relief services provider in the country, especially during natural and man-made calamities. We have done this every time there has been a major natural disaster in the past. We have limited capabilities, but a lot of experience,ÔÇØ said Md Nurul Amin, assistant director of the Disaster Response department of BDRCS, who has managed relief operations after cyclones Sidr, Aila and Mahasen.


BDRCS is planning to bring another 5,000 families in the affected areas under the emergency relief operation. For this, a minimum of 75,000 litres of drinking water will be needed every day, 100 tonnes of coarse rice to meet the food needs of these families for a month, and at least 5,000 tarpaulins for ensuring minimum shelter. A primary assessment suggests that nearly Tk. 30 million will be needed and this is beyond BDRCSÔÇÖs limited financial capabilities.

Caption: Hundreds of thousands of people have been marooned by flash flood triggered by cyclone ÔÇÿRoanuÔÇÖ in the coastal Barguna district

ÔÇ£Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is now looking up to everyone ÔÇô both home and abroad ÔÇô to extend their generous hand by helping the society who helps people,ÔÇØ said KhondkerJakaria Khaled, deputy secretary general of BDRCS and spokesperson of the ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØ relief operations.


At least 24 people were killed and more than 1,39,000 families have been affected by the havoc wreaked by cyclone ÔÇ£RoanuÔÇØ over BangladeshÔÇÖs coast.


Donate to BDRCS bank account:

A/C Name: Bangladesh Red Crescent Society

A/C Number: 0000240000191

Sonali Bank, Moghbazar Branch, Dhaka, Bangladesh.



For other options, visit the BDRCS donation page: http://www.bdrcs.org/donate