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Cyclone Fani causes flooding havoc for coastal towns in Bangladesh 

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July 2019

In May of this year, Bangladesh suffered severe damage as Cyclone Fani swept over the country. Fani developed into a super cyclone with wind speeds reaching 250 kilometers per hour. By the time it made landfall at Odisha on the northeastern coast of India, its wind speeds had fallen, but were still strong enough to cause significant damage. 

In the early hours of 4 May, Fani moved further north over Bangladesh, bringing heavy rainfall to Khulna, Jessore, Satkhira, Patuakhali, and the adjoining southwestern parts of the country, which all suffered severe flooding. Much of the damage caused by the storm came as flood defenses failed, emphasizing the importance of resilience building measures in Bangladesh’s cities.  

The storm also affected several cities where ADB’s Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) operates.  

By midmorning of the same May, Fani had weakened to a cyclonic storm. However, this did not mark the end of the danger for the coastal cities. The high winds forced a tidal surge to as much as four feet above the normal high-tide level, and low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Khulna, Bagerhat, Patuakhali, Satkhira, and their offshore islands were inundated. Dhaka’s Disaster Ministry announced that the severity of the storm surge saw embankments broken in several districts, submerging dozens of villages.  


Shahnawaz Whara 
Shahnawaz is a specialist for urban disaster risk reduction at Plan International Bangladesh. He is also a consultant serving as the Bangladesh city resilience officer to ADB’s Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund. 

Cyclone Fani destroys homes in Bangladesh (Photo: TBC). 

Government sources reported that a total of 13,000 houses were damaged in seven separate districts. In preparation for the storm, Bangladesh evacuated over 1.2 million people, moving them to cyclone shelters.  

Many people returning in the aftermath were unsure whether their houses would still be standing. The scale of the damage, and large numbers of people without shelter, raise protection and safeguarding concerns for young women and children. 


A family sits outside their destroyed home in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani (Photo: TBC). 

UCCRTF is working in five municipalities in Bangladesh, supporting cities to develop or review climate resilience-focused city development plans. Alongside this, the trust fund is working to measure the current level of resilience of the cities. It is expected that this work will be able to better inform the identification, planning, design, and implementation of new infrastructure that can support resilience in cities. In Patuakhali and Faridpur, UCCRTF is also facilitating community awareness initiatives to develop community risk assessments.  

Initial indications from the field suggest that several villages were inundated due to faulty embankments. Over 30 villages were affected by storm surges due to the damage of the Pauri embankment in Shyamnagar Upzilla, Debihata Koyra, and Barishal district.  

According to the country’s Department of Public Health Engineering, 3,300 wells were destroyed, limiting access to safe drinking water and hampering sanitation in six districts. Anecdotal reports from areas where UCCRTF works, specifically in Patuakhali and Bagerhat, suggest that relatively minor impacts have been felt. This highlights the importance of coastal protection measures being implemented to safeguard people and property. 

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