Cyclone Mary Ann struck southeastern Bangladesh. Winds from the superstorm reached around 220 kmph. The tidal waves rose as high as a palm tree. All making it one of the deadliest tropical superstorms to hit the region since record-keeping began.
The cyclone flattened villages after villages along the country's southeastern coast after making landfall in Chattogram district. An estimated 1.38 lakh people died while millions were rendered homeless in a span of just 12 hours.
Three decades on, memories of the cyclone still remain fresh in the minds of those who witnessed how it devastated the entire region and put a question mark on its geography by washing away several onshore and offshore islands. Large parts of Maheshkhali, Kutubdia, Chakaria, Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Ukhia and Teknaf were swept away by the cyclonic storm.
"It was a horrific day. Bodies were lying all over. The smell of death hovered in the air. The 1991 cyclone was indeed a devastating one in the history of our country," recounts Lion Md Giasuddin, member secretary of the Sitakunda Citizen Rights Conservation Council.
In fact, the cyclone wreaked havoc in 13 coastal areas, including Sandwip, Sitakunda, Anwara and Banshkhali upazilas. Most of the deaths were reported from Sandwip, Moheshkhali in Cox’s Bazar, Hatiya, Anwara, Banshkhali, Sitakunda, Chakaria and Pekua upazilas of the district. Over 3.000 people lost their lives in Sitakunda alone.
Cyclone Mary Ann: Recounting tales of horror, 30 years on
Pradeep Kumar Goswami, executive engineer at Cox’s Bazar Water Development Board, says, “A large portion of the embankment in Cox’s Bazar still remains vulnerable. The work at 11 points of the dam will start soon.”
But the cyclone has taught Bangladesh some tough lessons. Over the years, the government has improved its warning and shelter systems and also implemented a reforestation programme to mitigate future flooding issues in many vulnerable areas of the country. "We are better prepared now to deal with a disaster," says a resident of Sitakunda.
Source: United News of Bangladesh