Deadliest Natural Disaster of the Twentieth Century
November 13, 1970: Beginning in the evening and continuing into the next day, the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded strikes East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The steady winds held at 120 mph with associated gusting. There was also a storm surge that ranged from 15 – 20 feet producing massive flooding.
The Ganges Delta was the area of landfall. The low lying areas were inundated by rains, winds, and the storm surge. Many people were drowned in their beds as the water rose early in the morning. The official death toll is 500,000 with another 100,000 missing. However, because there was such devastation, an accurate count is not possible and the death toll may have been as high as 1,000,000. The early warning systems we are accustomed to today were not in place and many were caught completely off guard.
The island district of Bhola was the hardest hit with over 100,000 dead in this area alone. The cyclone is called the Bhola cyclone. The town of Charfasson and Tazumuddin were devastated. Many of those who lost their lives did so because they were trying to transport their meager possessions off the island rather than simply fleeing to higher ground and safety.
The Pakistani government was slow to respond and this was a major impetus to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. The Red Cross did respond and helped the villages to organize so that supplies could be more efficiently used. A cyclone is a hurricane in the South Pacific Ocean revolving in a counterclockwise movement rather than the Northern Atlantic clockwise rotation.
“To be unhappy is only half the misfortune to be pitied is misery complete.” – Arthur Schnitzler
“God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled.” – unknown
“To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead.” – Samuel Butler
“No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.” – Euripides
Also on this day, in 1833 the Leonids meteor storm lit up the night skies.