India and Bangladesh – Tropical Cyclone Fani Brings Storm Surge and Severe Wind Damage

Tropical Cyclone Fani made landfall south of the city of Puri in Odisha, India, early 03 May, 2019, with maximum sustained winds up to 240 km/h. By 04 May the storm had weakened, moving north east to West Bengal state with wind gusts of up to 100 km/h, and then on to Bangladesh. Storm surge of around 1.5 metres was reported in coastal areas, along with some heavy rain.

Fani is the most intense tropical cyclone to make landfall in India since the 1999 Odisha cyclone. The 1999 storm, the strongest ever recorded tropical cyclone in the North Indian Ocean, left over 10,000 people dead.

Tropical Cyclone Fani along the Indian coast, May 2019. Image: NASA


Disaster Authorities in India and Bangladesh prepared well in advance. According to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs Disaster Management Division, over 1.4 million people were evacuated in the Indian states of Odisha (1,160,529 people), West Bengal (234,801 people) and Andhra Pradesh (17,460 people), with 8,904 evacuation shelters set up (6,575 in Odisha, 2,175 in West Bengal and 154 in Andhra Pradesh). Rail, road and air traffic were suspended.

Fifty-four teams from India’s National Disaster Response Force were deployed to parts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal states, along with personnel from India’s army, navy, air force and coast guard.

In Bangladesh, disaster authorities ordered the evacuation of 19 coastal districts and set up 3,868 evacuation shelters.

Odisha and West Bengal

Strong winds from the storm caused the complete shutdown of power and telecommunications in the Odisha districts of Cuttak, Khordha, Bhubnaeswar and Puri. Extensive wind damage to thousands of houses was also reported. Huge numbers of trees were uprooted resulting in the disruption of road communication. Summer crops, orchards, plantations devastated in a large scale. According to the latest report from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs Disaster Management Division, 163 injuries were reported but no fatalities. Local media however report that at least 29 people have died in the storm in Odisha.


Deaths were also reported in Bangladesh. According to the Health Emergency Operations Centre and Control Room of the Directorate General of Health Services, 14 people lost their lives and 45 people sustained injuries due to lightning, falling trees and house collapses.

According to a report (pdf) of 05 May by the UN Resident Coordinator for Bangladesh, “Initial estimates from the National Disaster Response Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief indicate that approximatively 53,000 acres of agricultural land and 13,000 houses were damaged across the country. However, the preliminary estimates undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that up to 36,414 hectares (89,981 acres) of crops were affected in 21 districts.”

Storm Surge

Much of the damage was caused by the storm’s violent winds rather than flooding, although some reports suggested low-lying and coastal areas were inundated.  Heavy rain was reported in Odisha and West Bengal, along with storm surge up to 1.5 metres in coastal areas.

In a press release, Save the Children said staff had “received reports of low-lying areas along the coast being submerged by a five-foot-high storm surge, leading to the collapse of many houses made of mud and the uprooting of trees” in coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal.

The European Union’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG-ECHO) reported on 05 May that, in Bangladesh, “at least 36 villages in Patuakhali, Bagerhat, Bhola and Satkhira were inundated as storm surges breached earthen dykes and overflew them, according to the National Disaster Response Coordination Centre (NDRCC). A total of 32.28km of earthen dykes were damaged.”

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