Bhasan Char and Yaas: No injury, no damage
Even after fears of widespread inundation and extensive damage, Bhasan Char housing and cyclone shelters stood up well against cyclone Yaas, which made its landfall yesterday evening.
While the small island off Bangladesh's coast with the Bay of Bengal was not in the cyclone's direct path, residents did experience strong winds and tidal surges about two feet higher than normal.
Officials said this experience provided them with a good opportunity to plan for extreme events in the future and contribute to the overall preparedness of the Rohingya refugees.
Officials at Bhasan Char reported that there hasn't been a single incident of damage or injury. "This is the first cyclone in the island after Rohingyas were relocated here. So, it is also a first for the Rohingyas. But we had prepared [for such natural disasters] to the best of our capabilities."
Commodore Rashed Sattar, project director of Ashrayan-3 project, popularly known as the Bhasan Char project, told The Daily Star that this cyclone will help them prepare better for future natural disasters.
"The refugees and we are now confident after already facing one cyclone."
Syed Hossain, a refugee on the island, said, "We were fearing the outcome of natural disasters. But now, there is no fear."
Due to cyclone Yaas, heavy rainfall and winds started from Wednesday night in the island. Life at the Rohingya shelters were normal as people were roaming on the island and fishing at the canals.
"The embankment at Bhasan char is nine feet higher than the water level. So, not a single drop of water entered the island," Commodore Rashed said, adding that there was no casualty, no accident and no damage.
He said even if the cyclone was closer to the island while passing, Bhasan char would not be affected. "In any case, if water entered the island, there are a number of natural canals, lakes, and 120 ponds to accommodate the water. To discharge the water, there are 17 switch gates and 21 water pumps.
"During high tide, water came close to the embankment but that was for only two hours, after which the water started receding."
The Bangladesh government spent around Tk 3,100 crore in developing the island, building infrastructures and putting in place a protection system against extreme climate events under the project delegated to Bangladesh Navy.
About two hours by boat from Noakhali district town, Bhasan Char is slightly south west of Sandwip in the Bay of Bengal, close to the mouth of the Meghna river.
Since the beginning of the project, the UN and other international aid agencies have been reluctant to give a thumbs up to the project, citing risks of tidal surges and cyclones. Project officials said the embankment had been constructed after studying history and data of the last 176 years.
Each shelter was constructed 14 meter above ground-level and can withstand winds flowing 260 km/hrs.
Contacted, International Relations Professor Imtiaz Ahmed said Bangladesh is globally known for tackling cyclones and natural disasters and so when the government has taken up the project, they thought it out well before.
"There were several assessments from the government side. And this cyclone management in the Bhasan Char has now proved that the government took the right decision. Now, the UN and other organisations should pressurise Myanmar to take Rohingyas back and support the government."