Worldwide Tornadoes--Bangladesh

Tornadoes are most frequent in the US, but occasionally occur in other countries. The country of Bangladesh, about the size of the US state of Wisconsin but with a population of 120 million, is in the only other part of the world that is prone to strong and violent tornadoes on an annual basis. However, difficulties arise when you try to distinguish tornado deaths, injuries and damage from the deaths and damage caused by simultaneously occurring straight-line winds, hail, and flooding. Bangladesh experiences a complex mixture of storms, and the rural villages there have housing that is often made of mud, straw, bamboo, or corrugated steel. Thus, the devastation a storm causes demands more attention be paid to rescuing and caring for victims than to documenting exactly what happened meteorologically. By necessity, the dead are sometimes buried by their surviving family members without notifying officials. So hard numbers are difficult to determine. Those numbers on this page may change as we continue trying to improve their accuracy. That said, the storm listed below are believed to be tornadic. You can read more about worldwide tornadoes in "The Tornado--Nature's Ultimate Windstorm" by Tom Grazulis. If you know of a tornado that occurred in this or another country and can provide documentation for it, we will be happy to add it to this page. If you have a photo of this tornado, we would like to post it here. If you know of another page that has information on the tornadoes in this country, we would be happy to add a link to it.

April 7, 1888
The Times of London reported that a 500-foot wide tornado killed 118 people and injured 1200 more on the west edge of Dhaka. Soon afterwards, another 66 died in the Murchagunja area. There were unsubstantiated rumors that 150 people were killed by hail stones weighing up to two pounds each.

April 11, 1964(then called East Pakistan)
The Bangladesh Observer reported that as many as 500 people may have died as a tornado destroyed villages in the Narail and Magura regions of Jessore. Bangladesh newspapers that use the words "cyclone," "tornado," and "Nor'wester" interchangeably make it difficult to determine the exact nature of the storm. The presence of bodies in trees and cooking utensils imbedded in trees left little doubt that this was a true tornado. What was probably another tornado killed 4 people in Narail just nine days earlier, on April 2nd.

April 26, 1989
What may have been the world's deadliest tornado took place on this day. As many as 1300 people were initially reported killed and 12,000 injured as a tornado cut a long track, up to a mile wide, about 50 miles northwest and north of Dhaka, striking 5 districts. The towns of Saturia and Manikgank sadar were leveled and about 80,000 people were made homeless. There were at least 600 deaths in the tornado, along with 992 dead on April 14, 1969, 500 dead on April 1, 1977, and 800 dead on May 26, 1989.

January 9, 1993
Nearly 50 people were killed and thousands made homeless when a tornado battered villages in northeast Bangladesh. The tornado, which lasted five minutes, struck early on Saturday, a day after another tornado further north killed at least 26 people.

May 14, 1993
A tornado ripped through several villages in southern Bangladesh. The winds destroyed 350 mud-and-straw houses and left at least 50 people dead. More than 4,000 people were made homeless.

September 28, 1995
Five people were killed in northern Bangladesh when a tornado pushed a passenger train off the tracks. The train derailed in the northern district of Jamalpur.

May 13, 1996
On Monday afternoon, May 13, massive thunderstorms(probably supercells) formed along a dryline in western Bangladesh. Dew points in the northeast Indian desert were in the low 40's. Dew points in Bangladesh were in the low 80's. The resulting windstorms killed between 500 and 1,000, injured more than 30,000, and left 100,000 homeless. More than 80 villages with 10,000 homes were destroyed. Some people were buried alive in their collapsing dwellings. "The whole village has diminished into a vast grave" observed a police officer in the village of Barabhita. At Bashial, nearly 120 people were killed, many whom were students at a boarding school that was toppled. As many as 22 people died in one family. "Some families have no one left to mourn." More than 2000 people were brought to one hospital that had a capacity of 35. The appearance of the trees seems to indicate that at least a portion of these windstorms were tornadic. There were also press reports that people and animals were carried "long distances." The area near Tangail is about 50 miles NNW of Dhaka and about 30 miles north of the Manikganj area, where an estimated 1300 died in a tornado on April 26th, 1989.

A rough plot of the villages that were destroyed indicates that there were at least two separate tracks, about 10 miles north and south of Tangail. The northern track must have been at least 50 miles long. "Buses and trucks frantically ferried the injured to hospitals in Tangail and the nearby town of Mymensingh; others were carried on shoulders or carts" witnesses said. The extraordinary death and injury total may have been enhanced by a recent increase in "prosperity." The growth in the textile industry had allowed the people in this region to move out of homes of mud and straw and into frail sheet metal structures. It tossed homes, buildings and trees as if they were feathers." The air became filled with the loose sheet metal, literally acting like an enormous blender. Hundreds of paramedics and volunteers rushed to the affected areas, but their efforts were hindered by poor weather. Of the patients visiting one of the clinics set up to care for the injured, 99% had multiple injuries due to flying corrugated iron sheets that had been used as roofs and walls. In 84%, the wounds were infected and needed not only debridement but also antibiotics for infection control." Head injury was the cause of death in a majority of cases. "Seven per cent of the hospital deaths due to the tornado in Tangail district result from sepsis after wound infections." The horrendous death and injury total seems likely to be repeated. An east-west corridor lying north of the capital(Dhaka) of this impoverished country has a long history of killer tornadoes. On April 14, 1969, estimates of the death toll from another tornado range as high as 922.

The official death toll will be about 700, but at the time this number was quoted, there were still 9000 people in critical condition, and many hundreds had probably been buried by survivors without ever reporting the deaths with officials.

October 12, 1997
At least 15 and as many as 25 people were killed in Tongi, a town about 10-20 miles north of Dhaka in Bangladesh, when a tornado tracked through the town. The World Congregation of Muslim Devotees was conducting a 5 day seminar on the banks of the Turag River, in a massive but frail tin-shed "pandal". The Dhaka paper reported that there were 80,000-100,000 people attending the seminar, but that it had just ended, and they were preparing to return to their homes. At least 1000, and as many as 5000 were injured--depending on whether you go by a government source or rescue workers at the scene. All the dead were clerics, many if not all quite elderly. The major cause of death was by flying debris, as corrugated iron roofing, bamboo stakes and other materials became airborne. ``Tin was flying like pieces of paper tossed into the air,'' said Baker Ali, a preacher who survived the tornado. Torn pieces of metal, iron rods, wood, cooking utensils, shoes and water pots littered the muddy field where the Islamic clerics had gathered. Nine trucks full of dead or dying people were rushed to different hospitals. The Tongi Hospital was described as a "war clinic", with blood stained floors and corridors jammed with people wrapped in blankets, awaiting attention.

July 19, 1998
A tornado moved through villages flooded by heavy monsoon rains in northern Bangladesh, injuring at least 25 people. It struck the Sirajganj district, 65 miles north of Dhaka, destroying dozens of mud-and-thatch houses already weakened by flooding. Flooding contaminates the drinking water supply, causing dysentery, diarrhea, and sometimes death.

March 26, 1999
A tornado tore through scores of villages in northern Bangladesh, killing at least two people and leaving thousands of villagers homeless. It blew down thousands of mud huts, uprooted trees and knocked down telephone and electricity poles in the Panchagarh district, 215 miles north of Dhaka. The bodies of a man and woman were recovered from the debris of their collapsed home in Satmora, a village near the Indian border. About 60 other people received serious injuries.

September 19, 2000
Two people were killed and 5 others severely injured as a violent tornado tracked through five villages in the Savar and Gazipur districts near Dhaka. Many others received lesser injuries. A tornado also struck an industrial township in the Savar subdistrict, collapsing three factories, including a textile mill. About 500 homes, many of bamboo and tin, were destroyed and electric power and telephone services were cut off. Incessant rain for two days also caused flash flooding and many injuries and much damage was caused by that.


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