On 15th November 2007, Cyclone Sidr bore down on southern Bangladesh, unleashing winds that peaked at 250 km. per hour and six-meter high tidal surges that washed away entire villages. Cyclone Sidr killed over 3,000 people, a fraction of the more destructive cyclones that struck in 1970 and 1991 which claimed more than 600,000 lives. But that was still too many. According to reports from the worst hit areas, many of the dead and injured were crushed when trees fell onto poorly constructed houses made of thatch, bamboo or tin. Others drowned when they, together with their houses, were swept away by the torrents of water.
Extent of the Damage
More than eight million people in 31 districts were reportedly affected by Cyclone Sidr. More than 9,000 schools were flattened or swept away, with extensive damage reported to roads, bridges and embankments. Some two million acres of crops were damaged and over 1.25 million livestock killed.
The brunt of the disaster was felt in Patuakhali, Barguna, Bagerhat, Bhola, Satkhira, Barisal, Khulna, Shariatpur, Pirojpur, Madaripur, Jhalakathi and Gopalganj.
Habitat for Humanity and Bangladesh
Cyclone Sidr was the second occasion Habitat for Humanity* responded to a natural disaster in Bangladesh. The cyclone struck as Habitat was providing transitional housing for families affected by summer floods that had inundated about 40 percent of the country a few months earlier. Until then, Habitat's activities in Bangladesh had concentrated on assisting the poor who had drifted into slum settlements in towns and cities in search of a better life in one of the world's poorest and least developed countries. Habitat's Save & Build housing microfinance scheme had enabled thousands of families to slowly save what they could afford to build small basic homes or rehabilitate existing dwellings.
But the aftermath of flooding in July and then Cyclone Sidr could not be ignored. Habitat for Humanity had to respond to needs of families who had lost their homes. Habitat worked with local authorities and communities, mobilized resources and building expertise and rolled out a program to build 122 transitional houses after the summer floods in central Tangail district. This scheme was supported by Japan Platform, an emergency humanitarian aid organization that brings together Japanese government, corporate and non-governmental organizations to provide emergency humanitarian assistance after disasters. This work was still under way when Cyclone Sidr struck. Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh quickly applied experience from the first scheme in its response after Cyclone Sidr.