Tropical Cyclone Fani Hits The State of Odisha

Tropical Cyclone Fani, a 240-kmh supercyclone, has hit the state of Odisha in the Bay of Bengal and is wreaking havoc in a region that boasts over 100 million population.  I always watch the progress of any storm in the Bay of Bengal (which can also be accurately called the ‘bowl of Bengal’ due to its unusual ‘bathymetry’ which helped generated the single worst environmental catastrophe in recorded history, the 1970 Bhola Cyclone, which killed up to 500,000 people in one terrible night.   Every cyclone in this bay is worth watching, but this one is a monster.  

The expected ‘flight path’ of the storm will take it perilously close to Bhola, which fell victim to that awful storm almost 50 years ago due to its highly populated and low-lying state, barely a metre above sea level.  The big threats here are storm surges.  Back in 1970 that was a 10 to 15 metre storm surge.  This time, the storm surges in Odisha are expected to be less than a third that—mainly due to how the sea and sea floor are ‘shaped’ at that point…  By the time the storm gets up to Bangladesh tomorrow winds are still expected to gust up to 100 kmh, which for good quality brick houses with well secured tin roofs is no problem, but for the primitive structures the poor live in, not so easy.  

High tides are already causing problems in Bhola, according to our operations manager in Bhola, but the winds and rain are still away from the peak.  Every time any kind of storm fires up in the area, you can see that even though 50 years has passed since the Bhola Cyclone, even the grandchildren of those who experienced the event have not forgotten…  For me, a bit of thunder is just the promise of a drought breaking, but for Bhola people it’s sounds like a harbinger of doom.


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