Terror from the sea

On Nov 16th, Bangladesh was hit by a cyclone. Cyclone Sidr brought winds of up to 240km/hr (150mph), and created waves of water that were over 5m (16ft) high. This has caused extensive flooding and damage. Homes, crops, and power lines have been destroyed over large areas. At least a few thousand people have died because of the cyclone. Many countries around the world are providing aid to help the people of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is a reasonably young country and has had two births in a way. Until 1947, it was part of India and was ruled by the British. In 1947, as part of India’s independence, a new country called Pakistan was created. Pakistan had two separate portions, called East and West Pakistan. In 1971, East Pakistan became its own country called Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a very densely populated country – its population is larger than that of Russia, a country that is more than a hundred times bigger!

Cyclones are very large storms with winds swirling around at a very fast speed. The center of the storm is called an “eye”, and is actually quite a calm area. The eye is surrounded with thunderstorms that have very strong winds and rains. The wind rotates around the eye of the storm in one direction. As the wind spirals, it causes a large amount of water to pile up at  the center of the storm. This large amount of water (called a tidal surge) is carried by the storm and is eventually dumped on land causing a lot of flooding.

What’s the difference between cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons? Not much! They are all the same type of storm – the only difference is what part of the world the storm strikes. In Australia and the Indian Ocean, they are called cyclones. In the Western Pacific Ocean, they are called typhoons. In the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific Ocean, they are called hurricanes.