On 12 November 1970, Bangladesh was hit by a major cyclone at the coast belt of the country with wind velocity of 62 m/s, accompanied by a storm surge 6-9 m in height. An estimated 500,000 people were killed and millions were made homeless and severely destitute.
Responding to this, government of Bangladesh collaborated with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to launch the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP), aiming at 1) developing and strengthening the disaster preparedness and response capacity of coastal communities vulnerable to cyclones, 2) increasing efficiency of volunteers and officers, and 3) maintaining and strengthening the CPP warning system and ensuring effective response in the event of a cyclone. All efforts taken aimed at minimising the loss of lives and properties by optimising volunteers and disseminating related information to local people.
Initiative and Implementation
Through the CPP initiative, the system of information flow was overhauled and additional actions were taken. Around 143 wireless stations were established and 33,000 volunteers were recruited. The volunteers were responsible for forwarding the information they received from the wireless system to villagers. Besides, volunteers were trained to providing humanitarian relief, getting people to shelters constructed along the coast, rescuing distressed people, providing first aid for injured people, and assessing cyclone impacts. Volunteers also conducted regular simulation drills and held meetings to raise awareness and disseminate relevant information.
May 1997 saw similar massive cyclone hitting Bangladesh, now with wind velocity 64 m/sec, almost the same scale as the 1970 cyclone. This time, CPP network was well functioned and allowed approximately one million people to take refuge in shelters before the cyclone hit. The result, number of casualties were greatly reduced to 193.