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Flood forecasting for Bangladesh

Some 300,000 people in 2001 have been affected by floods caused by the monsoon and the deluge of water it brings.
Some 300,000 people in 2001 have been affected by floods caused by the monsoon and the deluge of water it brings.  


By Nick Easen in Hong Kong

(CNN) -- For the first time Bangladesh has the chance to avoid the devastating floods that continually plague its coastal areas killing thousands and ruining livelihoods.

A new model has been developed that forecasts the huge storm surges that the coastline is prone to, allowing improved sea defenses and coastal shelters.

It is hoped that the model could be developed as part of a weather-monitoring network that could then alleviate suffering through an early warning system similar to those for the U.S. Great Lakes and Japan's coastlines.

Bangladeshi scientist Junaid Amin As-Salek told CNN that it was just "a matter of funding" and "the willingness of the international community," to implement effective flood planning.

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Bangladesh is often referred to as the most disaster prone country in the world -- a statement corroborated by reported loss of life from devastating floods, storms and natural disasters.

The country has a yearly average of over 44,000 deaths from disasters, the highest average figure in the world, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More disasters to come

Scientist Junaid Amin As-Salek has modeled the interactions between Bangladesh's ocean, atmosphere and shoreline after researching the Meghna Estuary for seven years, an area that he says "accounts for 95 per cent of the world's storm surge casualties".

The newly developed model predicts the size and arrival times of huge waves that cyclones generate.

Children wait for food at their flooded house in Hajaribang, a low-laying area near by to the capital Dhaka in August 2001.
Children wait for food at their flooded house in Hajaribang, a low-laying area near by to the capital Dhaka in August 2001.  

During the monsoon period tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean barrage the coast, creating walls of water that surge ahead of them.

The large waves called storm surges, can sometimes reach 12 meters (39 feet) high.

As-Salek reiterated that his work could "help Bangladesh to issue timely and accurate storm surge warning, to identify high risk zones and construct cost efficient and environmentally friendly embankments."

These will be welcome words for many who live in Bangladesh's low-lying areas.

However, As-Salek predicts that in the years ahead "stronger cyclones are likely to come."

"We must consider global warming and sea level rise and the risk of more flooding, 20 percent of Bangladesh will be under water in 50 years if the sea level continues to rise at its current rate."

Waves of progress

Currently the densely populated country lacks the resources to erect effective defenses, well positioned cyclone shelters or carry out proper evacuations, which sometimes take two to three days.

Many areas are so low-lying that even storm waves several meters high can have devastating consequences for its coastline populace.

As-Salek hopes the new modeling technique that predicts storm surge behavior can help Bangladeshi's plan more effectively when So far the country's scientists have received little funding for storm surge or data collection purposes and there are few instruments for data collection along the Bangladesh coast.

However, As-Salek is ever hopeful, and he is now working in the U.S. on flood forecasting for the Great Lakes with a view to developing a user friendly Internet interface for Bangladeshi flood warnings, along similar lines to the U.S. model.



 
 
 
 



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