Surviving Cyclone Roanu

تم النشر: 23 مايو 2016 12:26 CET

By Chowdhury Mustazabur Rahman, IFRC

Just before Cyclone Roanu slammed into Bangladesh’s coastline on May 21, Mohammad Alamgir Hossain from Char Patila, a remote island in Bhola district, swung into action. As head of the local Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT) Alamgir was well trained on disaster preparedness, first aid and search and rescue techniques. He was alerted by the local radio operator working for the Bangladesh Red Crescent Cyclone Preparedness Programme and immediately organised his team members to start evacuating the local community to safer ground. 

"It was a signal seven warning so I quickly coordinated with the rest of the team and we divided ourselves into two groups," said Alamgir. "We were equipped with raincoats, rubber boots, life-jackets and a megaphone. We ran through the community announcing the danger signals and spreading early warning messages."

The Red Crescent had alerted its local branches in 18 coastal districts in advance of the cyclone’s arrival. They in turn helped to mobilize 55,260 Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) volunteers whose role was to disseminate early warnings to local populations living along the coast and help them evacuate. Due largely to the actions of these volunteers, more than 500,000 people were moved to cyclone shelters and other places of safety prior to the cyclone’s landfall.

When Cyclone Roanu struck the coast of Bangladesh, it was accompanied by strong winds and driving rain and a tidal surge of more than a metre which swept inland. But in Char Patila, preparedness measures had paid off and no lives were lost, although a significant number of livestock and poultry perished in the flooding.

"The storm did little damage to our homes which we had reinforced earlier," explained Alamgir who together with rest of the community had learned how to secure their homes under the Red Crescent’s Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction programme. "In the trainings we learned the importance of raising the plinth of our houses and reinforcing the frame to withstand floods and storms. People became more conscious and this has had a positive impact in reducing damage during such cyclonic storms."

Alamgir with other CDRT volunteers were also trained in first aid. "We are equipped with first-aid tools and basic medicine. After the storm we provided first aid and sent a few of the injured to hospitals.”

Cyclone Roanu is the first tropical cyclone of the monsoon season in Bangladesh. Fortunately only 24 deaths have been reported but the storm’s impact along the coastal belt has been significant. Some 700,000 people have been affected as the tidal surge along with heavy rainfall damaged or destroyed around 80,000 homes and had major impacts on the livelihoods of local people by submerging rice fields and standing crops.

"Water seeped into to our rice stores and much of it has been damaged," explained Alamgir with a note of resignation in his voice, "but we know this is part of our life. We are working together as a community and we have learned how to manage and will do it better in the future.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is releasing funds from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Bangladesh Red Crescent Societies’ emergency relief and recovery operation that will target assistance for 24,500 people, focusing on distributions of cash grants, tarpaulins for emergency shelter, provision of safe drinking water through mobile water treatment plants and the replenishment of household items lost to the storm.