When Cyclone Aila hit the coast of Bangladesh on Monday, reportedly killing at least 89 people, one of the first things I thought about was the 400 storm-resistant homes Oxfam helped to build following another devastating cyclone one and a half years ago. Did the houses hold up?
It’s too early to know. But with their brick foundations, concrete corner pillars, and frames made of seasoned local lumber, the houses stand a better chance than many of the dwellings that Bangladesh’s poorest residents live in. Oxfam and its local partner, BRAC, built the houses following the catastrophic damage left behind by Cycolne Sidr in 2007. In one village where Oxfam was working—Padma–Sidr destroyed every single home of the roughly 700 families living there.
News reports are just now emerging about the damage left by Aila. Tidal surges fueled by winds up to 60 miles per hour and flooding have forced about 500,000 people in Bangladesh into shelters, according to Reuters.
An Oxfam researcher, Sandhya Suri, was in the Gabura area of Bangladesh when Alia hit. She said that that a nine-foot tidal surge accompanied the storm as it passed the area at high tide.
“Now the entire Gabura union is under water,” she reports. “Many people are trying to leave. Others hang on… guarding their belongings.”
Gabura is about 40 miles from where the new houses were built. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the houses have withstood damage, and we’ll be working to ensure that Bangladeshis affected by the storm have what they need.