Deadly cyclone leaves millions of Bangladeshis without electricity

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2022.10.25
Dhaka
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Deadly cyclone leaves millions of Bangladeshis without electricity Residents in Chittagong, Bangladesh, search for belongings within the debris of their collapsed homes following Cyclone Sitrang, Oct. 25, 2022.
Rabin Chowdhury/AFP

Bangladesh authorities were working late Tuesday to restore electricity in coastal communities hit by Cyclone Sitrang, which left at least two dozen people dead and millions without power.

The storm also damaged thousands of homes and devastated crops as it cut northward across the South Asian country after making landfall in low-lying seaside districts on Monday night.

Nasrul Hamid, the state minister for energy and power, told reporters on Tuesday that the cyclone severed power to 8 million customers in 15 coastal districts.

Another official said crews were working to restore electricity after the cyclone left Bangladesh.

“Most of the connections were snapped as uprooted trees and broken branches fell on the distribution cables when the cyclone hit last night,” Shameem Hasan, spokesman for the state-run Power Development Board, told BenarNews on Tuesday evening.

“Cumilla is the most affected district in terms of damage of electricity distribution network,” he said.

Meanwhile, Habibur Rahman, deputy commissioner of coastal Barguna district, said Sitrang had massively damaged the power grid there.

“Hopefully, we can see restoration of electricity by tonight,” he told BenarNews on Tuesday.

Hasan Jhantu, a resident of Patharghata, a sea-front sub-district of Barguna district, said some crews were successful.

“Electricity came on at 1 a.m. Tuesday for several minutes,” he told BenarNews. “After a series of outages, we got electricity in the afternoon.”

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People ride rickshaws and motorcycles on a flooded street in Dhaka as Cyclone Sitrang hits Bangladesh, Oct. 24, 2022. [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

‘Like the sea was coming to grab us’

The cyclone, which originated in the Bay of Bengal and made landfall at around 10 p.m. Monday, weakened Tuesday afternoon, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 65 kph (40 mph) per hour and wind gusts up to 85 kph (53 mph), the Associated Press reported.

The weather office in the capital, Dhaka, which had recorded gusts up to 88 kph (55 mph) Monday evening, said the danger had passed.

At least 24 people in 12 districts, including a Myanmar national, were killed in the storm, according to local administrators and police contacted by BenarNews.

The highest death toll – eight – was recorded in the Mirsharai subdistrict of Chittagong district.

Md. Labib Abdullah, the Mirsharai assistant superintendent of police, told BenarNews that the victims were working in a sand quarry when a dredger overturned and they became trapped at around 11 p.m. Monday.

S.M. Shafiullah, the head of Chittagong’s police administration in Chittagong, said the bodies would be turned over to police to be transferred to family members.

“It was terrible. It looked like the sea was coming to grab us,” Mizanur Rahman, a resident of Bhola district, told the Reuters news agency after communications were restored in his area.

“We spent a sleepless night, all we could do was pray.”

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Elsewhere, Myanmar national Shaw Ming, 71, a cook on a ship that arrived in a Teknaf River port in Cox’s Bazar one week ago, fell from the ship’s deck when the cyclone struck, port manager Mohammad Jasim Uddin Chowdhury told BenarNews. He said the man’s body would be turned over to Myanmar authorities.

Meanwhile, the officer-in-charge of the Teknaf police station, Md. Hafizur Rahman, confirmed Tuesday that a 9-year-old local girl, the daughter of Jafar Alam, had died after falling into a pond.

In southwestern Cumilla district, three family members died when a tree fell on a house in Nangalkot sub-district.

Two deaths were reported Bhola, Dhaka, Gopalganj and Siranjganj districts while one death was reported in Narail, Barguna and Patuakhali districts.

Enamur Rahman, the state minister for Disaster Management, said the government had relocated about 1 million people to cyclone shelters before Sitrang made landfall in Bangladesh. He estimated that the cyclone damaged more than 10,000 houses and 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of land.

“We feared that Sitrang would spell catastrophe in Bangladesh. But it weakened, hitting the coast at 10 p.m. We were relieved,” Rahman told BenarNews. 

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Women wade through a waterlogged street in Barisal, Bangladesh, in the aftermath of Cyclone Sitrang, Oct. 25, 2022. [Munir uz Zaman/AFP]

Rear Adm. Md. Shahjahan, chairman of the Chittagong port, said operations there resumed around 7 a.m. Tuesday as the weather improved.

Bangladesh is rated among the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

On April 30, 1991, a severe cyclone hit Bangladesh’s coast, killing at least 130,000 people.

On Nov. 15, 2007, Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people.

More recently, Cyclone Amphan killed 15 people on May 21, 2020.

“We fear that another cyclone may hit Bangladesh in December,” Enamur Rahman said.

Abdur Rahman in Teknaf, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

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