Bangladesh well prepared for Cyclone Mahasen

29 May 2013

image Women walking on road in flood prone area. Photo: Salman Saeed, UNDP Bangladesh

Decades of disaster preparedness activities demonstrated their value last week, when tropical cyclone Mahasen made landfall in Bangladesh, says UNDP.

“Although the storm was relatively weaker than anticipated, Bangladesh’s strong national system for disaster readiness meant that the impact of the storm was considerably less than expected,” said Pauline Tamesis, Country Director UNDP, Bangladesh.

“While 17 deaths were reported, and any death is unnecessary, this was considerably less than the deaths by tropical cyclones in the region,” Tamesis added.

Under the constant threat of cyclones, the Government of Bangladesh has worked with UNDP for more than 30 years to improve the country’s disaster infrastructure, such as disaster resilient shelters, embankment protection and green belts through mangrove plantation.

Working with the central government, UNDP helped setup a 24/7 Disaster Management Information Centre and a National Disaster Response Coordination Centre, that provides information about impending threats, delivers emergency aid in times of crisis, and helps coordinate risk reduction and recovery.

Over 60,000 people have been trained as responders with UNDP help. As a consequence, the average death toll and damage from each cyclone and flooding incident has steadily decreased year on year since the establishment of the information centre in 2004-from over 4,000 in 2007 to 17 so far this year.

Mahasen was downgraded as it made landfall last Thursday to a category one cyclone and was given a threat level of seven on a 10-point scale. The government ordered the evacuation of about one million people from 15 exposed coastal communities and deployed emergency teams and supplies, including food and fuel, to ensure preparedness measures were in place.

“One of the biggest challenges in Bangladesh, especially during a cyclone, is ensuring that early warning systems and messages reach the widespread and sizeable population in sufficient time to ensure that people are evacuated and taken to cyclone shelters and other safe places,” said Jo Scheuer, Coordinator of Disaster Risk Reduction & Recovery, in UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.

Since 2010, with UNDP support, warning messages have been sent across Bangladesh via mobile phones.

The disaster preparedness measures undertaken are part of a long-term Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme supported by UNDP that is helping Bangladesh anticipate, prevent and prepare for and withstand natural hazards, such as cyclones.

Highlights

  • Over one million people were evacuated before Mahasen struck
  • In Bangladesh, UNDP has supported over 700 local risk reduction schemes
  • From 2000-2012, at least 90 countries have been impacted by disasters