Expected low death toll in Mahasen vindicates disaster preparedness
Myanmar/Bangladesh/India - Myanmar, Bangladesh and India have avoided a potential catastrophe as Cyclone Mahasen weakened to a tropical storm as it made landfall in Bangladesh on Thursday.
But fears remain that some remote areas may have experienced some destruction. IOM staff are taking part in joint assessments in the Chittagong division of Bangladesh and western Myanmar to determine if assistance is needed.
“The storm was weaker than expected, but we have to commend the preparedness work done by the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar and their partners to get people to safety and ensure that communities were ready,” said Brian Kelly, IOM’s Asia-Pacific Emergency Advisor.
“If this same storm had hit 20 years ago, we might have seen thousands of deaths. As it is, people are already leaving the storm shelters to go home,” he added.
Some deaths have been reported in Bangladesh, where over a million people were evacuated to purpose-built storm shelters and public buildings. The caution was justified: in 1970, Cyclone Bhola killed some 400,000 people, Cyclone Sidr killed nearly 4,000 people in 2007, and Cyclone Aila killed some 200 people two years later.
Earlier this week seven persons died and thousands were displaced in Sri Lanka when heavy rains, caused by Mahasen, washed over the north and east of the island.
Concerns in Myanmar have also eased. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from vulnerable locations, and humanitarian aid was pre-positioned. Initial impact assessments in and around the city of Sittwe started this morning. While information is still scant, initial indications seem to suggest that the damage has been minimal.
IOM will continue to play an active role in the humanitarian community’s ongoing efforts to help communities impacted by the storm.
For more information please contact
IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific