Storm 1991 victim

I was a student of Chittagong medical College, when the cyclone of April 29 hit coastal Chittagong. It was drizzles all day, winds were gaining momentum as night fell on Chittagong. When I came out of the library building around 9 PM, the winds were quite strong, campus was deserted, and hospital lobby was empty. I had to stay over in the hospital that night because the road connecting the hospital and the student’s dorm on the other side of the hill was too unsafe for walking in that storm. Falling trees, flying debris were everywhere. As night progressed, storm got fierce and fiercer, as if the immense 6 story quarter mile long building will fall apart. As I took shelter in a bed at the sick student’s ward, it was a scary sleepless night. We, half a dozen stranded souls, kept waiting for the morning only to see utter devastation of the medical college campus. The beautiful hilly tree lined campus was in ruins, 50% of all the large trees were uprooted, and power lines were all over. The hospital, the highest tertiary healthcare-trauma center for all of southern Bangladesh was totally ineffective as the fallen trees completely blocked all the roads including that to the emergency.

That specific storm of april 29 originated in the Pacific about 6,000 km away and was named as tropical storm Marian. It took 20 days to reach the coast of Bangladesh. Then named as cyclone 2B of 1991, it had a dimension of more than the size of Bangladesh. The central overcast cloud had a diameter exceeding 600 km. The maximum wind speed observed at Sandwip was 225 km/hr.

At the aftermath of the storm, when the full picture of devastation came out, there were one and a half lac dead people, billions of dolllars propoerty and cattle head vanquished.

******************************************************************************************************************************

The first American I have ever met was a soldier, probably a member of US marine corps. I saw him in Bangladesh. He was dispatched to Chittagong, Bangladesh after the deadly storm of April 29 1991. I was hustling across he crowded lobby of Chittagong medical college hospital when I spotted an area where the crowd is a little denser than the rest of the lobby. A well built Caucasian man in battle gear, sun burnt skin, walking across carrying a Bangladeshi toddler on his shoulder. The toddler, clearly a victim of the recent cyclone, was vomiting all over the marine’s body.

The soldier was in Chitagong as a part of operation sea angel.

Between 10 May and 13 June 1991 Joint Task Force Sea Angel, one of the largest military disaster relief forces ever assembled, took part in rescue and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath after the Category 5 cyclone of 29 April 1991, which was one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in recent times. Operation Sea Angel started with an advance teams from the III Marine Expeditionary Force and later included over 7,000 US soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. A fifteen-ship amphibious task force composed of Amphibious Group 3 and the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, homeward bound from five months of operations in the Persian Gulf, was diverted to the Bay of Bengal to assist.

Lieutenant General Henry C. Stackpole, commander of the III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, was in charge of the Contingency Joint Task Force.