The 1970 Bhola cyclone was a tropical cyclone that hit current day Bangladesh, but at the time was East Pakistan. The cyclone reeked havoc on many different cities in East Pakistan and neighboring communities, killing as many as 500,000 people. This is one of the most destructive cyclones that planet earth has ever experienced.

external image 693px-November_1970_Bhola_Cyclone.jpg(Figure 1 Bhola Cyclone out in the sea, first formation of the eye)

This horrific natural disaster that brought mayhem through the Bay of Bengal was a brutal cyclone, but what exactly is a cyclone and how does it differ from a hurricane or typhoon? Well, a cyclone is different from hurricanes and typhoons because it originates in the Indian Ocean. A hurricane is a storm that originates in either the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean (east of the dateline), or the South Pacific Ocean (east of 160° East). A typhoon is a storm that develops in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, west of the dateline. Therefore, just from the title alone, we can begin to gather information of this event to understand, such as the location, the temperatures, and the weather of the disastrous storm. Also, from the title we can conclude that the wind speed exceeds 118 km/hr. Although cyclones have the largest radius compared to thunderstorms and tornadoes, they do not have the fastest wind speeds. Cyclones have a low pressure in the core which allows air to rise through the center then cool and form clouds. Since the cyclone hit Bangladesh, there was a counter- clockwise rotation flow and paths turn to the right, as do all cyclones in the Northern hemisphere. Whereas on the Southern hemisphere, there is a clockwise rotation and paths turn to the left. In order to move in their paths, cyclones need to obtain energy from somewhere. They obtain their energy through heat from the warm (at least 25 degrees Celsius) waters of the ocean. Once the cyclone hits land, it starts to lose strength because there is no more heath energy from the ocean to absorb.
This cyclone began to form in the middle of the Bay of Bengal a few days before it hit land on November 12, 1970. The storm’s greatness continued to develop and grow as it approached East Pakistan and then it finally made landfall that catastrophic night with the cyclone’s wind speeds of up to 185 km/hr. The result of the storm was the flooding of the Ganges Delta in the lower lying lands. The cyclone killed an obscene amount of people from many different villages, cities, and communities. The Bhola cyclone killed nearly 50% of the population in the city of Tazumuddin. The estimated casualties is reported to be around 500,000 people, but the exact number will never be accurate with everyone accounted. It is obvious that a disaster is of a completely different caliber when the life lost had an estimated range of 300,000 people. As horrific as the life lost was, the cyclone brought immense financial damage to East Pakistan and neighboring economies, costs of what would now be equivalent to $490million US Dollars.

external image bhola_cyclone.jpg

(Figure 2 this image depics just a small amount of the damage that was acctually done)

The damage of the atrocious cyclone was one of the worst disasters that the world has ever seen, even in comparison to Hurricane Katrina and the most recent disaster, the Haiti earthquake. And though the disaster was tremendous, in life lost, economically, and with the people displaced from their homes that lost everything, there is still opportunity to learn and grow as a community, society, and world. Similar to Haiti, the world came with relief efforts, broken hearts, and servant spirits. The American government alone allocated $10 million to the relief (approx $55 million now). Even India, a country with a history of contempt for each other, responded the fastest with $1.3 million ($7.2 million now). The relief effort by the own Pakistani government was the one that was very poor, leading it to receive much criticism, similar to George Bush with the Hurricane Katrina situation. Globally, we came together to aid this disaster, but what could the survivors of this disaster do locally at the community level? These people built shelters and prepared for the many and continuous following cyclones that hit this area. In 1970 alone, 6 cyclones pounded on this area and this area, today, is still brutalized by cyclones, but the people of East Pakistan/ Bangladesh became proactive to stay safe and protect loved ones for the future.
The 1970 Bhola Cyclone was a deadly and devastating storm, but it was the political aftermath that began to brew because of it that would change everything. The East Pakistani government would see the repercussions of their poor response to the cyclone that destroyed the land and people’s spirits. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Awami League more commonly known as Bangabandhu, won the election that took place approximately one month after the Bhola Cyclone. It was prior to the elections though that things began to radically change in East Pakistan. Many local politicians and people of East Pakistan took the streets, rallied, protested, and demanded the resignation of the president because of his indifference, neglect, and meager response to the disaster.
Through the election, the Awami League took control of the majority of the National Pakistani assembly with 313 seats total in December. It was the current political powers (during the Bhola Cyclone) that shot themselves in the foot with their poor reaction, assessment, and action taken prior, during, and immediately after the cyclone that allowed the Awami League to win the election and gain the majority vote. The Awami League was then in a position to establish their own policies in the national government, but the political leaders of West Pakistan were not tolerant of the Awami League’s power and ideologies. The tension continued to rise during the beginning of 1971 and the tension and terror grew enough that the government offices, both in East Pakistan and in West Pakistan, that were currently specifically focusing on relief efforts, shut down. In February, people assisting with the planning of long-term relief effort were evacuated because of the rising fear of possible violence. Bangabandhu called the people of East Pakistan to rise up and arm themselves against the Pakistani military, who had killed hundreds of their peaceful protestors. The East Pakistani people standing up was the beginning of the Bangladesh Liberation War, the war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, what is nowadays Bangladesh and Pakistan, respectively. What had gone from an election to unrest to war of liberation in March finally became a war between Pakistan and India, the Indio-Pakistani War of 1971. India aided the East Pakistanis and allowed refugees to enter into their borders, which the West Pakistani leaders did not approve. The war between West Pakistan and India spanned from December 3, 1971 to December 16, 1971 and though America fully supported the West Pakistan government, on January 10, 1972 Bangladesh became an independent nation with Bangabandhu as the first president. The Bhola Cyclone, one of the world's most deadly and devastating natural disasters, ended up being the catalyst for political unrest, war, and the development of a new nation


  1. Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. 1993. 9 February 2010 <http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/A1.html>
  2. Hossain, M. Z. “Impact of Tropical Cyclones on Rural Infrastructures in Bangladesh.” Agricultural Engineering International: The CIGR Journal. X.1 (2008): 1-13
  3. Sommer, Alfred; Mosley, Wiley. “East Bengal cyclone of November, 1970: Epidemiological approach to disaster assessment.” The Lancet 13 May 1972: 1029-1036
  4. Rashiduzzaman, M. "The Awami League in the Political Development of Pakistan". Asian Survey: Vol 10 No. 7 (July 1970): 574-587
  5. Ryback, Carol and Jayne Keedle. Hurricanes (Ultimate 10). Gareth Stevens Publishing. July 2008: 14-17
  6. Bhola Cyclone. Digital image. Verizon Images. Web. 10 Mar. 2010. <http://images.search.yahoo.com/images
  7. Bhola Cyclone. Digital image. Bhola Cyclone. Web. 10 Mar. 2010. <http://images.search.yahoo.com/images
  8. Hyndman, Donald W., and David W. Hyndman. Natural Hazards and Disasters. Australia: Brooks/Cole, 2009.