Powerful Cyclone Fani, at its worst an “extremely severe” storm, brought heavy rainfall and winds of 209 km/h to communities across India and Bangladesh. About 15 deaths have been reported so far, and hundreds of homes are likely to have been damaged.

As a massive clean-up operation gets under way in the affected areas of India and Bangladesh, the Red Cross and Red Crescent are assessing what help people need. Roads are being cleared and communication lines restored, although it might be up to two weeks for full connection to be restored to some remote areas. Staff and volunteers in Bangladesh and India are coordinating with the authorities and partners to support the affected communities.

The approach of the cyclone – one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades – was met with intense disaster preparedness work by the Indian Red Cross Society and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

Tens of millions of people in the cyclone’s path received warnings. In India, about 1.1 million people were evacuated away from the coast; in Bangladesh, 1.6 million were evacuated. In India and Bangladesh, in coordination with government agencies, staff and volunteers issued warnings to communities at risk. The Indian Red Cross opened 65 shelters in Odisha state, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. More than 15,000 people stayed in Red Cross shelters.

In the hours before Fani hit, final preparations were in full swing to keep people safe. In the Indian state of Odisha in the path of Fani, Indian Red Cross staff and 1,500 volunteers trained in first aid, disaster management and rescue passed on life-saving early warning messages to some of 20 million people in at-risk districts. Among the messages: Try not to panic. Listen to the radio and follow instructions. We will help. The Red Cross is here with you.

Bangladesh’s renowned and life-saving cyclone preparedness system swung into full action. Volunteers in the Red Crescent/government cyclone preparedness programme alerted communities and provided information about the threats, potential impact and dangers through social media, megaphones and loudspeakers, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. An estimated 50,000 cyclone preparedness community volunteers were involved.