Tropical Cyclone Mora made landfall early this morning along Bangladesh’s South West coastline between Cox’s Bazaar and the city of Chittagong. The storm was packing winds of between 89 -117 kilometers per hour and throughout the day, high winds and heavy rains have battered several districts in the region. The Bangladesh meteorological office has warned that coastal areas could face flooding as a result of 4-5 metre storm surges along the sea front. The cyclone which had brought days of heavy rains and flooding to Sri Lanka, intensified as it crossed the Bay of Bengal before hitting the coast of Bangladesh

“We are already receiving reports that there has been extensive wind damage that left many shelters along the coast in tatters”, said Azmat Ulla, head of office with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Bangladesh.

Of particular concern is the plight of thousands of migrants who recently arrived in the district of Cox’s Bazar from Rakhine State in neighbouring Myanmar. Virtually all of this population are dependent on emergency humanitarian aid for their daily subsistence.

“Many of these people lived in makeshift shelters which have most likely not weathered the storm well.  Fortunately most were evacuated to the safety of cyclone shelters.in time before the cyclone struck,” said Azmat Ulla. “Cyclones hit this coastline every year and we know that one of the biggest needs will be to provide people with emergency shelter materials”.

The immediate focus of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) has been on saving lives. Youth volunteers from the Bangladesh Red Crescent cyclone preparedness programme were out in force before the storm struck, working with local authorities to evacuate over 300,000 people from low-lying coastal areas such as Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Noakhali, Laxmipur, and Feni and some of the offshore islands. They disseminated early warnings in communities via megaphone and also helped to evacuate people to the safety of cyclone safe shelters.

Thousands have been displaced from their homes and the IFRC has released funds from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) which will be used to provide food and other emergency relief items to people living in temporary shelters. Bangladesh Red Crescent disaster response teams with first aid and search and rescue equipment are on standby together with mobile water purification kits.

The day before the cyclone made landfall, the Bangladesh Red Crescent activated its ‘Forecast-based-financing’ mechanism, under which nearly 3,000 households in Hatiya upazila, a low-lying area prone to flooding in the coastal district of Noakhali, received a grant of 5,000 taka (60 euros). This innovative programme is an initiative supported by the German Red Cross and German Government and is designed to help families better meet their immediate needs when disasters strike. It is activated when specific weather conditions are anticipated and are likely to impact communities living in certain high risk areas.

Almost exactly a year ago, on 21 May, Cyclone Roanu brought floods and landslides that affected close to 1.3 million people in the same area of Bangladesh. Flooding displaced more than 200,000 people from their homes and damaged or destroyed 75,000 homes.