Nearly two months ago we were travelling through the south of Bangladesh. In the region named Khulna one can arrange a cruise to the Sundarbans, the famous mangrove swamp. Coming back to those moments, we recall the spotting of a cyclone shelter in the village at the entry point to the reserve. This spot, at the shore of a main channel of the delta that feeds part of the Sundarbans was visited by us for some moments, just the time to get an entry permission and board two officials.
We were walking into that village, leaving the water behind, surrounded by all the kids that at that time were off school, when we saw a cyclone shelter among some other rudimentary constructions, a few huts, and a public school, with a metal plate that told us that it was constructed with Australian funds. This was of the same kind we have seen about a year ago in Orissa, India, where cyclones cause destruction from time to time. Essentially we were in the same lands, although in different countries.
A cyclone shelter is basically a solid building, an elevated construction that provides security from the winds and upcoming water. The foundations are such that dissipate energy from upcoming flood waves from the sea or from riverine floods, with a semi pyramidal shape. Above it, at some meters from the ground, one or more spacious rooms are to provide shelter to a number of people. Then, above it, an open rooftop dominates the landscape.
These buildings are designed to cover a certain amount of population, therefore, in a region like this it is not difficult to find more than one. Indeed, when a cyclone shows up, the time to reach the shelter may be crucial.
Education of the population, or better said, letting people know how and when to use the shelter is a major issue. Seminars and explicative paintings around the shelter cover that function, so that people know how to proceed at the time all hear the hand-syren calling people in.
Nevertheless, speaking with people all this time, we got to know how the perception of a cyclone may differ from us. In this region strong wings and floods are frequent, if not seasonal, and not always hold a destructive force. Some people, used to these events, show reluctant to abandon all to go sheltered, completely unknowing the power that the cyclone might have. Not long ago a huge one showed up, just one year before our trip, one day of October. Many people did not hear the alarms, some misheared them, and many died.
From there we continued deep into the forest.
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