Cyclone Fani: et si les choses s’étaient passées autrement… — Cyclone Fani: how it could have been a lot worse

Newsletter June 2019

Friendship NGO Team
Jun 7 · 5 min read

by Marc Elvinger, Chairman Friendship Luxembourg

Chères Amies, chers Amis
Dear Friends of Friendship (see translation below)

Pendant la nuit du 29 avril 1991, à une époque où, dans cette région du monde, les cyclones ne portaient pas encore de nom, un cyclone de force maximale fit plus de 140.000 morts au Bangladesh et y laissa plus de 10 millions de personnes sans abri !

Le Cyclone Sidr qui a frappé le Bangladesh le 15 novembre 2007, fit autour de 10.000 victimes mortelles et détruit les habitations de dizaines de milliers de personnes, tout en endommageant sévèrement près d’un quart de la mangrove des Sunderbans, classée au Patrimoine Mondial de l’Unesco.

Il y a d’ici à peine plus qu’un mois, fin avril, les services météorologiques annonçaient la formation, dans le Golfe du Bengale, d’un cyclone, depuis lors baptisé Fani, qui menaçait d’être l’un des plus violents des dernières décennies. Tant la côte est de l’Inde que la région côtière du Bangladesh furent progressivement mises en état d’alerte maximale. Alors qu’environ 1,2 million de personnes auront été évacuées dans l’Etat indien d’Odisha et un nombre similaire le long des côtes du Bangladesh, Fani perdra finalement une partie de sa violence avant de frapper l’Inde au matin du 3 mai et le Bangladesh en fin d’après-midi de la même journée. Au final, Fani n’aura fait «que» 89 morts, dont 17 au Bangladesh ! Ceci certes en raison de son essoufflement relatif à l’approche des côtes, mais aussi parce que depuis le drame humain de 1991, énormément a été fait pour améliorer les systèmes d’alerte précoce et la préparation des populations aux effets des catastrophes naturelles.

Friendship est très activement partie prenante de cet effort de préparation et les articles que vous trouverez dans la Newsletter «Cyclone Fani, how it could have been much worse» détaillent les actions entreprises pendant les jours précédant le 3 mai pour limiter au mieux les dégâts et pour être préparé au pire. Vous en retiendrez en particulier que pour le Cyclone Shelter de Kuakata, réalisé avec l’appui des entrepreneurs et architectes du Luxembourg et inauguré en novembre dernier en présence de certains d’entre eux, cela aura été l’épreuve du feu, ou, si l’on préfère, l’exercice grandeur nature, 400 personnes y ayant trouvé refuge pendant la nuit du 3 au 4 mai!

Il n’est bien sûr jamais possible de dire ce qui se serait passé exactement si les choses s’étaient passées autrement… Mais il est évident que toutes les mesures de préparation mises en œuvre, y compris les programmes de disaster preparedness réalisés par Friendship et d’autres sur le long terme et au sein des communautés les plus vulnérables, auront significativement contribué à ne pas faire du cyclone Fani une catastrophe humanitaire majeure. Le retour sur investissement est incommensurable en l’occurrence et l’adage suivant lequel «Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir» s’applique de façon exemplaire ici !!

Comme toujours, votre appui reste fondamental pour la poursuite de nos actions ! Une manière de nous l’apporter sera de venir nous rejoindre le 16 juin prochain à partir de 16 heures pour la Friendship Garden Gallery, à Bridel «chez Eilo». Vous trouverez l’invitation ici. Nous espérons vous y retrouver nombreux.

Merci pour votre confiance toujours renouvelée.

Marc Elvinger
Chairman Friendship Luxembourg

Friendship Cyclone Shelter in Kuakata. Inaugurated in November 2018, it has already had the opportunity to prove its usefulness in May 2019 — © Friendship.

Dear Friends of Friendship,

During the night of April 29, 1991, at a time when cyclones were not yet given names in that part of the world, a cyclone of maximum strength killed more than 140,000 people in Bangladesh and left more than 10 million without shelter!

When Cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh on November 15, 2007, it killed 10,000 people and destroyed the homes of tens of thousands, while devastating nearly a quarter of the Sunderbans mangrove forest, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Just one month ago, at the end of April, meteorological services announced the formation in the Bay of Bengal of Cyclone Fani, which was then threatening to develop into one of the most violent cyclones of the last decades. Both the east coast of India and the coastal region of Bangladesh were gradually put on high alert. While about 1.2 million people were evacuated in the Indian state of Odisha and a similar number along the Bangladesh coast, Fani eventually lost part of its strength before hitting India on the morning of May 3 and Bangladesh in the late afternoon of the same day. In the end, Fani will have caused “only” 89 fatalities, including 17 in Bangladesh! While the relatively limited number of casualties is to be explained partly by the fact that Fani had lost some of its violence when making landfall, another important factor is that since the tragedy of 1991, much has been done to improve early warning systems and preparedness of populations for the effects of natural disasters.

Friendship is very actively involved in the preparedness effort and the articles in the Friendship’s May Newsletter “Cyclone Fani: How it could have been much worse” which you can access here describe in detail the action undertaken during the days leading up to May 3rd to minimize damage and be prepared for the worst. For the Kuakata Cyclone Shelter, which was built with support from Luxembourg builders and architects and inaugurated last November in the presence of some of them, it will have been the test of fire, or, if one prefers, a live exercise, 400 people having found shelter in its premises during the night of May 3–4!

Of course, it is never possible to say exactly what would have happened if things had gone differently … But there is no doubt that all the preventive actions taken, including the long term disaster preparedness programs carried out by Friendship and others, targeting the most vulnerable communities, will have contributed significantly towards ensuring that Cyclone Fani did not cause a major humanitarian disaster. The return on investment is immeasurable in this case and proves the adage that “Prevention is better than cure”!

As always, your support remains crucial to the pursuit of our actions! One way to provide us with such support will be to join us at the Friendship Garden Gallery on June 16th from 4 pm onwards, in Bridel “at Eilo’s”. You can find the invitation here . We hope to see many of you there.

Thank you, as always, for your trust.

Marc Elvinger
Chairman Friendship Luxembourg

Aerial view on the Friendship Cyclone Shelter of Kuakata.

Friendship NGO Luxembourg

Friendship Luxembourg is one of the European branches of the NGO Friendship. We work together with our teams in Bangladesh to create lasting solutions to the challenges faced by the poor and vulnerable communities in Bangladesh.

Friendship NGO Team

Written by

Friendship is an NGO that helps poor people in Bangladesh. We make it our priority to reach communities in remote areas that are otherwise inaccessible.

Friendship NGO Luxembourg

Friendship Luxembourg is one of the European branches of the NGO Friendship. We work together with our teams in Bangladesh to create lasting solutions to the challenges faced by the poor and vulnerable communities in Bangladesh.

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