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The Bhola Cyclone

On the evening of November 12, 1970, the Bhola cyclone made landfall on the coast of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), dissipating slowly on November 13. Both the cyclone and the rains leading up to and following it resulted in:

  • A 33 foot high storm surge at the Ganges Delta
  • Complete decimation of the 13 nearby islands, leaving no survivors
  • Flooding that damaged ports, ships, and the local airpot
  • Destruction of homes, boats, and the deaths of more than half of the area’s fishermen

In India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, got the brunt of the forming cyclone on November 8 and 9 with heavy rains and widespread flooding, while West Bengal and Assam caught the tail end with rain-related damage to housing and crops. In addition, on November 12, the storm sank a 5,500-ton freighter, killing all 50 people on board.

Considered one of the deadliest disasters in modern times, and the deadliest recorded tropical cyclone, the Bhola cyclone claimed between 300,000 and 500,000 lives and did $86.4 million worth of damage.

As if the devastation of the storm wasn’t enough, political tensions between India and Pakistan got in the way of advanced warnings, leading to much higher death rates than might have occurred, while conflict between Pakistan and East Pakistan resulted in delayed aid, triggering the resignation of the Pakistani president, the Bangladesh Liberation War, and eventually the creation of the new nation of Bangladesh. It also inspired the first ever benefit concert, spearheaded by Bengali musician and ex-Beatle George Harrison–The Concert for Bangladesh.