Cyclone Fani Hits Bangladesh, Killing 5; Evacuations Prevent More Casualties

The most powerful storm to hit Bangladesh in years tore into the country over the weekend, uprooting trees, destroying thousands of homes and killing five people, but spared this crowded nation from worse damage.

G.M. Abdul Quader, the joint secretary of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, said the authorities had prepared aggressively for the storm, Cyclone Fani, which barreled up the Bay of Bengal with wind speeds of 120 miles per hour.

As in neighboring India, where the storm made landfall on Friday before heading northeast, in Bangladesh thousands of volunteers had woven through villages with megaphones, warning people about the impending storm’s dangers and urging them to move to shelters. Both countries also sent extensive text messages to the tens of millions of people in the cyclone’s path.

Though devastating for many farming communities, the damage was still remarkably low. Just 20 years ago, thousands of people were killed when a cyclone of similar size struck Odisha, a poor coastal Indian state that also bore the brunt of Cyclone Fani.

Since then, the authorities in India and Bangladesh, which is geographically especially prone to storms, have prepared for such natural disasters by drafting meticulous evacuation plans and building hundreds of shelters.

Apart from the five fatalities in Bangladesh, several hundred people were injured. Part of a dam crumbled in the remote coastal district of Patuakhali, flooding villages, killing cattle and destroying wells and thousands of acres of crops. On local television channels, families picked through tin shacks obliterated by the wind and rain.

Indian officials in Odisha were busy over the weekend clearing debris with power saws and trying to restore full electricity to the state. Bishnupada Sethi, the special relief commissioner, said 34 people had been killed in India, probably all by falling trees.

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