Tropical storm Roanu rages through Bangladesh – First successes for disaster management in Gibika

Bangladesh was hit once again by a tropical storm on 21 May 2016. Cyclone Roanu made landfall in the evening, not far from the seaport of Chittagong on the southeast coast. The good news is that the emergency systems are beginning to take effect.

On 18 May 2016, a low pressure system in the North Indian Ocean developed into a cyclone and made its way north along the east coast of India towards Bangladesh. The losses balance: roughly 20 kilometres of dams destroyed, several villages flooded, and by far more than 50,000 houses damaged. 27 people lost their lives – most of them due to collapsing buildings or falling trees. Around 1.3 million persons were directly affected by the cyclone’s impact.


Cyclone Roanu hit the southeast coast of Bangladesh on 21 May 2016.

Emergency systems take effect
Approximately half a million people from the coastal regions were able to be brought to safety. Bangladesh regularly has to cope with cyclones and their impacts. The devastating tropical storms largely form in the Indian Ocean from where they are drawn by the coastline, which acts like a funnel, into the Bay of Bengal, where they then make landfall. Twenty-five deaths are still too many, even though, in comparison to earlier cyclones, this number can be deemed an improvement, as storm disasters in the past claimed very many more lives. Over 300,000 people died in 1970; during a storm of similar intensity in 1991, more than 100,000 people lost their lives.

Thanks to comprehensive disaster risk reduction and preventative measures, the risk and vulnerability to natural disasters could be mitigated and the number of deaths drastically reduced. Nevertheless, Cyclone Sidr in 2007 still claimed the lives of some 3,500 people. At that time, 70 people living in the small village of Dalbanga South alone were killed. Together with the municipal authorities, we plan to improve the early warning system in this community within the framework of our Gibika project.


The fields of the Dalbanga community were flooded by Roanu.

Raising risk awareness for disasters
We began with the first measures in Dalbanga South at the beginning of 2016. The community's existing flood and cyclone early warning system is to be improved in cooperation with the local people. To achieve this, the village residents need to be made more aware of the different kinds of risks and also of the early warning system. Regularly practising the automatic processes to be taken in the case of an emergency and, above all, also integrating the children and young people will help to do this. We would also like to increase not only the number of voluntary helpers but also the visibility and range of the warning system. In addition to additional warning flags, which will be set up in frequently visited locations, the use of sirens is planned to strengthen the warning effect. The warnings will, moreover, be announced on the radio and by mobile phone text messages.


A voluntary helper of the cyclone early warning system explains the meanings of the flags.

The implementation phase has begun at exactly the right time. According to reports from our cooperation partners on the ground, the village community was better prepared this time. The flags signalling a storm strength of 1-6 were hoisted in time, and there were no major injuries. Despite the death toll of 27 in Bangladesh, the cyclone also demonstrates an example of success in the country: disaster risk management is increasingly proving itself effective; damages and losses in much greater scale are being prevented.

10 June 2016

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