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Cyclone Aila tests Oxfam houses in Bangladesh

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Flood waters swamped Gabura in Bangladesh after Cyclone Aila hit. Photo by EPA/Abir Abdullah
Flood waters swamped Gabura in Bangladesh after Cyclone Aila hit. Photo by EPA/Abir Abdullah

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.

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  1. Pingback: Oxfam America Blog » Blog Archive » Cyclone Aila tests Oxfam …


    I certainly hope that the houses stand up. I’ve been talking to my friends and neighbors in Iowa about the impacts that climate change is having on human beings worldwide. While we can’t prove that the cyclone is caused by climate change, we do know that climate change is expected to make cyclones more frequent and severe- even if strong reductions in emissions are put into place. Building stronger houses in vulnerable communities is an excellent example of climate adaptation at work, enabling poor people to be resilient in the face of a changing climate. Hopefully the United States government will make good on its responsibility to fund important adaptation efforts in vulnerable communities worldwide.

  3. Coco McCabe

    Hi, Stephen:

    Some of those vulnerable communities are right here in the US–on the Gulf Coast. Many of them took a terrible beating from back-to-back hurricanes a few years ago. Remember Katrina? And her equally destructive sister, Rita? In the wake of those storms, Oxfam has been working with a Louisiana-based group called TRAC on a new kind of storm-resistant housing for bayou residents. Here’s a link to an audio slideshow that will tell you more about it:

    And here’s a link to TRAC’s website so you can see the good work they are doing to help people prepare for the inevitable:


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