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DHAKA, BANGLADESH, November 10, 2019 – Packing winds of up to 75 mph, Cyclone Bulbul made landfall in Bangladesh late Saturday, flooding low-lying coastal areas and severely damaging homes along the coast. Although the storm continues to weaken, it has caused devastating crop losses and has decimated the homes of the poorest coastal families whose houses are in riskier areas and are made with less sturdy materials.
Fortunately, few deaths have been reported. “While there are many people who will need significant support following this storm, the government’s robust preparedness activities have paid off. Most people were able to get into evacuation shelters and out of harm's way,” said Snigdha Chakraborty, CRS’ country manager for Bangladesh.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) supported partner Caritas Bangladesh as they helped with evacuations in Khulna and Barisal throughout the day Saturday. Caritas Bangladesh opened 40 cyclone shelters and provided short-term food in those shelters. Those Caritas shelters are among the more than 300 shelters operating. In all, more than 500,000 people, along with their belongings and livestock, had been evacuated as the storm passed.
CRS has joined Caritas Bangladesh teams in assessing the damage and has already committed funds for families’ urgent needs.
“Right now, we are very focused on the badly affected Sathkhira and Khulna districts on the coast, which continue to experience heavy rain and high winds,” Chakraborty said. “Staff have not yet been able to reach some of the remotest locations due to ongoing rains, heavy winds and damaged roads. Initial reports in Khulna indicate significant crop losses and partial or total damage to poorly constructed houses. And we have early information about significant seas surges in remote areas of Sathkhira, but hope to get confirmation tomorrow.”
In Khulna and Sathkhira, people will need immediate shelter repair support, plus longer-term assistance to help compensate for lost income from damaged crops. Weather reports are predicting two more days of heavy rain, so there is still uncertainty on how bad the flooding will be.
“We are concerned that the cyclone shelters are not sufficient for anything more than a very short stay. People are eating snack food and bread as the shelters have no facilities to cook,” Chakraborty said. “Families will be in the shelters at minimum another two days under heavy rains, and for the people who return to find their homes damaged or destroyed, they are looking at even longer displacement. Drinking water is also a concern as many shelters do not have a safe water source. Caritas Bangladesh has provided their shelters with water jars sufficient through today, but this will be a critical need for the next few days.
“I’m grateful that so far, we have not had reports of significant damage in the areas we support in the camps for Rohingya refugees. Those camps are vulnerable to landslides and flooding based on the natural terrain, but reports are that the infrastructure improvements are holding strong.”
CRS is accepting donations for families affected by Cyclone Bulbul.