WMO praises early warning system using local volunteers
World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Geneva has lauded the early warning system of Bangladesh that used local volunteers shouting through megaphones to warn people about the impending cyclone Sidr.
"What they did is brilliant," said Maryam Golnaraghi, chief of disaster risk reduction at the WMO in Geneva.
"They have rolled out a very cost effective, very sustainable mechanism that is even inspiring policymakers in developing countries," Golnaraghi said, IRINNews, an independent information wing of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Kenya, reported yesterday.
She feared the present death toll could have been 'hundreds of thousands' in number had the warning system not been in place.
A cyclone of a similar magnitude that hit Bangladesh in 1991 killed 190,000 people. An even stronger one in 1970 left 300,000 dead and was the trigger for the early warning mechanism being put in place.
"Without this system, the losses would have been as bad as the cyclone in 1991," said Salvano Briceno, director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
The authorities in Bangladesh first got news of the impending crisis 72 hours before the category four tropical cyclone, which was then still forming over the Bay of Bengal, made landfall.
The WMO's global cyclone observatory started feeding data to its regional outpost at the Indian Meteorological Office in New Delhi, which in turn triggered Bangladesh's government to sound the alarm.