Ampan impact

After Amphan hit Satkhira in the night, the embankments in at least 10 points of Satkhira sadar, Ashashuni, Shyamnagar and Kaliganj upazilas, were damaged and water inundated various areas. Executive engineer of the Water Development Board, Abul Khair, said the water had reached up to 9 to 10 ft.

In Mirzaganj of Patuakhali, the embankment was damaged by the cyclone and four villages were flooded. Habibur Rahman, a village policeman, was injured when a tree fell on him in the village Madhabkhali, while he was taking food to the cyclone shelter there.

In Khulna, at 8 in the night, the embankment broke open at three points in South Debkashi union of Koyra, and flood waters rushed into Gharilal, Angtihara and Golkhali. The panic-stricken people huddled for safety on the embankment.

In Barishal, the fragile embankment of the Water Development Board broke at various points of Barguna sadar, Taltali, Patuakhali’s Kalapara and Bhola’s Tamizuddin, flooding the areas. Md Alam Miah, a resident of Joyalbhanga in Taltali, spoke to Prothom Alo over cell phone at 8:30 Wednesday night, saying, “Our area is under water. Water has gushed over the sluice gate at Joyalbhanga and the nearby areas and has submerged our village. I have somehow managed to scramble to the roof of my house.”

Professor of BUET’s Institute of Water and Flood Management, AKM Saiful Islam, said the repairs on the embankments must begin immediately. The Aman crop season is approaching and so we must ensure that the harvest is not affected. The embankments must be repaired on an emergency basis and fresh water supply must also be ensured.

The assistant engineer of the open control room of the Barisal region Water Development Board chief engineer’s office, speaking to Prothom Alo at around 9:30 Wednesday night, said that the situation was extremely bad at Barguna, Kalapara and Dumki in Patuakhali, Machhua in Mathbaria, Pirojpur and Tamizuddin in Bhola where waters of the tidal surge had entered.

In Bagerhat, the embankment of Gabtaka in Southkhali Union of Bagerhat has been destroyed by water surging from the Baleswar river. Eight villages of the union were flooded.

Why the tidal surge was so high

According to the Water Development Board flood forecast and warning centre, the tidal surge began at 3 in the afternoon along the coastal region of the country. At the same time, as it was the day of the new moon, the tide was high. These two natural phenomena led to the tidal surge reaching 12 ft in height. Experts of the centre feel that the surge is likely to have more devastating effect that the stormy winds of the Amphan.

The embankments along the coastal districts and islands stretch for 5765 kms in total and most of these are from 12 to 15 ft in height. Constructed back in the 60’s most of the embankments are in a sorry state of disrepair. Only half of them have been repaired over the past 5 years. These have been impacted badly by Cyclone Amphan and are likely to be damaged further by the flood waters.

Affinity with Aila

From 1950 till date, 33 cyclones have hit the coast of Bangladesh, most at Chattogram, Noakhali, Khulna, Bagerhat and Barishal. Since 2007, a total of 7 serious cyclones hit the country. The worst have been Sidr in 2007 and Aila in 2009. Like Aila, the most damage wrought by Amphan is by the tidal surge.

Compared to Sidr, less people died and less property was destroyed during Aila, but half the embankments along the coast were seriously damaged.

Professor of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET)’s Institute of Water and Flood Management and climate expert, AKM Saiful Islam, told Prothom Alo that the repairs on the embankments must begin immediately.

"From the Aila experience we can see that the more this is delayed, the cracks in the embankments will grow bigger. The Aman crop season is approaching and so we must ensure that the harvest is not affected. The embankments must be repaired on an emergency basis and fresh water supply must also be ensured".

* Correspondents from Satkhira, Patuakhali, Khulna, Barishal and Bagerhat contributed to this report

Read more from Bangladesh