Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cyclone Aila aftermath: "Cyclone Aila Kills 168 in South Asia"

A cyclone that tore into southern Bangladesh and eastern India on Wednesday has killed at least 168 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless, according to relief workers and news agencies.

The death toll was expected to rise through the night as rescuers reached rural villages cut off by floodwaters.

The Food and Disaster Management Ministry said Cyclone Aila had killed 100 people in Bangladesh, and a government official in West Bengal state in India put the number of dead at 68, according to The Associated Press.

Storm surges in coastal areas of Bangladesh were particularly deadly, disaster officials said, as nearly half a million people sought refuge in temporary shelters. Fishing boats also were damaged and vast areas of rice paddies and cropland were flooded with salty seawater.

Nijhum Dwip, a low-lying coastal island with 25,000 residents, was reportedly submerged.

"We're quite worried about this island, because reports are coming in that houses and fields have been totally washed away," said Nick Southern, the Bangladesh country director for the aid agency Care. "We are trying to get there today by boat, but the cyclone has made travel almost impossible."

In India, video reports from the city of Calcutta showed snapped power lines, uprooted trees and roofs being torn from houses and commercial buildings. The heavy rains also caused massive mudslides in the Darjeeling tea district, where more than 20 people had died, the A. P. reported.

The cyclone also lashed the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and a Unesco World Heritage Site that straddles the India-Bangladesh border. The area is an important home to the Royal Bengal tiger, and the A.P. reported that at least one tiger retreated from the rising waters into a home. Game wardens tranquilized the tiger and planned to release it after the flooding subsided.

The same area was struck in 2007 by Cyclone Sidr. More than 3,500 people died in that storm and 2 million more were displaced.

Cyclone Aila swallows Sunderbans tigers

It's not just residents of Kolkata who bore the brunt of Cyclone Aila. Forest wardens fear that as the cyclone tore through the Sunderbans

flooding the mangrove forests, it may have killed more than a dozen of the highly endangered Bengal tigers

As the human toll from Monday's cyclone rose to 64, beat officers and range officials in the Sunderbans feared hundreds of herbivores and at least a dozen tigers might have been swept away by the giant waves that lashed the forests. While a tiger had sneaked into the Jamespur village wading through the flood waters and was tranquillised early on Tuesday morning, 20 crocodiles and two spotted deer were found dead.

The full extent of the damage will be known only after an assessment by forest teams. As per the last census, the Sunderbans had 265 tigers.

Pintu Mirdha of Jamespur got the shock of his life when he spotted a male tiger crouching in his waterlogged cowshed. Mirdha managed to shut the cowshed door and informed the forest department. But forest guards had to wait for the water to recede to get close to the animal. Neighbours were asked to evacuate as the animal paced up and down the locked cowshed. At around 1pm, when the water level went down during low tide, the male tiger was tranquillised.

"It swam into the village that was left flooded after the cyclone. Since most villagers weren't present at the submerged huts, no one noticed the animal," said Subrat Mukherjee, field director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve.

"A storm like this has never hit the Sunderbans in the last three decades. Going by the extent of damage to the villages, the state of the forest could be terrible. Forests remained under eight feet of water till late Tuesday afternoon. Immediately after Aila hit, it had gone up to 20 feet," said Mrinal Chattopadhyay of the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers.

"Even if tigers manage to swim to higher grounds, deer and wild boars must have been swept away," he said. Wardens fear that even if tigers survived the giant waves, the lack of prey will certainly kill them.

But some forest officials were cautious. "We shall study the damage once the water level goes down," said Subhendu Bandopadhyay, divisional forest officer, South 24-Parganas. Beat wardens, however, said no assessment would be possible until the waters recede and that could take weeks. By that time many of the carcasses would have disintegrated to nothing.

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Heavy rain batters Kanyakumari

Normal life was thrown out of gear in Kanyakumari district following heavy rain in various places on Tuesday.

Students who had passed SSLC and higher secondary examinations were put to hardship when they went to the employment office or special camps set up by the district administration to register their names. Office-goers also found it difficult to reach their destinations.

Fishermen did not venture into sea owing to rough weather.

Movement of vehicles was restricted as rainwater flooded roads in Kottar, Putheri, Vadaserry, Thuckalay and Colachel.

Natarajan of Therperambuvilai near Marthandam sustained grievous injuries when a coconut tree fell on his house. He was admitted to a hospital for treatment. Banana plantations were damaged at Boothapandi, Kadukkarai, Anjugramam, Kulasekaram, Thuckalay, Ethavilai and surrounding areas by rain and gale.

The maximum rainfall of 104 mm was recorded at Chittar I followed by 96 Chittar II, 77.2 in Perunchani, 76 in Pechipparai, 71.7 in Surulode, 57.2 in Kottaram, 56.2 mm in Boothapandi, 38.5 in Kannimar, 27 in Myladi and 25.6 in Aralvoimozhi.

Owing to heavy rainfall, salt production was affected in Anjugramam, Palkulam, Swamithoppu and surrounding areas.

Water level in Pechipparai dam stood at 36.80 feet and the inflow was 478 cusecs. Water level in Perunchani stood at 34 feet and the inflow was 101 cusecs.

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90 dead: cylone rips through Bangladesh, India

More than 90 people have been killed by a cyclone that ripped through Bangladesh and eastern India, officials and local media said.
At least 62 people died in Bangladesh and 29 in India's West Bengal state, with millions still marooned or living in shelters.
"The death toll rose to 62 following recovery of 47 more bodies from different cyclone-battered coastal districts," Bangladesh's private ATN television reported.
Cyclone Aila slammed into parts of Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday (local time), triggering tidal surges and flooding that forced half a million people from their homes.
Officials in coastal Bangladesh moved about 500,000 people to temporary shelters after they left their homes to escape huge tidal waves churned by winds up to 100 kilometres per hour.
Heavy rain triggered by the storm also raised river levels and burst mud embankments in the Sundarbans delta in the neighbouring eastern Indian state of West Bengal.
The affected area is home to hundreds of thousands of people as well as the world's biggest tiger reserve.
In Bangladesh, the worst affected area was the Satkhira district, near the port of Mongla, where a local official said 17 bodies were found in one village.
"The situation here is alarming, and the confirmed death toll so far in the district is 22. But it may go up," Mohammad Abdus Samad, deputy commissioner of Satkhira, said by telephone.
Aila swept many areas still recovering from Cyclone Sidr in November 2007, which killed 3,500 people in Bangladesh and made at least a million homeless.
Bangladesh officials said at least 100 people were missing after the cyclone.

- Reuters

Rare Cyclonic Storm over Nothern Argentina

A low-pressure weather system over the heart of South America developed into an unusual cyclonic storm in mid-May 2009. According to MetSul meteorologist Luiz Fernando Nachtigall (who tipped The Earth Observatory with this story), the storm "remained quasi-stationary for 48 hours and was incredibly symmetric, resembling a tropical cyclone in the middle of the continent.

This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite shows the unusual storm on May 22. With clear skies all around, the ball of clouds hung over the border between Argentina and Paraguay. Near the top center of the storm, the clouds have a boiling appearance that is often associated with towering thunderstorms. Near the bottom of the storm, a few wispy streamers of clouds suggest the clockwise inward spiral of the storm.

Nachtigall wrote that any kind of cyclonic formation is very rare in the Chaco region of northern Argentina and Paraguay. This system...unleashed heavy rain (over 200 mm) in Paraguay and displaced 500 people, according to local media reports.

Weatherman gets it right, mostly

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Partly cloudy with thundershowers towards evening or night. The humidity could be low and day temperature will be around 33 degree Celsius. The coming days would see rains with the monsoon setting over Kerala shores...

The weatherman is at it all the time.

Mild showers or high noon, all want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow, or maybe the day after. The real weatherman who silently observes the cloud formation, the dip in the temperature or the direction of the wind, is an unknown face to all. He is A Muthuchami, the head of the meteorological department. While studying the weather, he has also fallen in love. With Bangalore's salubrious climate.

This 53-year-old weatherman starts off with some fundas about the weather. "If the weather is challenging, it makes people active, like in European countries. Though we feel easily exhausted due to high temperature during summer in Chennai, people work hard to complete their work faster. Here, the low temperature of Bangalore makes me feel lazy."

Starting out as a private school teacher, the state's top weatherman, who aspired to be an IPS officer, landed up as the research assistant at the Cyclone Warning Research Centre (CWRC) in Chennai where he spent the next decade.

Born in Vedepatti, a village 80 km away from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and educated in a government school, he is the first to get a post-graduate degree in his village.

After completing his Masters in mathematics from PSG College of Arts and Science and MPhil from Ramanujam Institute of Advance Studies in Mathematics from Chennai, Muthuchami worked for three years as a lecturer in a government college in Tamil Nadu. On passing the UPSC exam, he was appointed as the Assistant Meteorologist Grade-2 in 1985.

Muthuchami remembers his year of joining the Met department as the year of the launch of INSAT-1B and installation of 100 disaster warning instruments in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Moving from a researcher at CWCR, he served at the agro-meteorological advisory unit and as meteorologist at Chennai airport. Last January, he was posted as the director of the Met department in Karnataka.

Coming from a farming community, Muthuchami was well aware of the significance of the weather even before he joined the department. "Life depends on weather. World history has changed due to weather conditions. The Germans were defeated due to bad weather that prevailed during the Second World War," Muthuchami says.

Married to Dheivani -- his pillar of strength -- they have two kids. Daughter Uma Maheshwari, a bio-pharmaceutical engineer, works in Chennai while son Arun Mahesh, has just written the PUC exam and is interested in a career in Electronics.

For this disciplinarian coming from a research background, the role of administrator has been challenging. A year and a half later as the state's Met chief, the biggest challenge for Muthuchami and his family has been in learning the local language. "Everyone here speaks or understands Tamil. So, the need to learn the local language has never arisen. But, I have learnt to recognize the Kannada alphabet and am also making an attempt to learn the language," he says.

With all his siblings involved in agricultural activity, Muthuchami plans to return to farming after his retirement and continue with his research work. If there's one thing he is not too happy with, it is the reach of agro-meteorology forecasting to farmers.

The weatherman has some good things to say about the climatic conditions in Karnataka -- the geographic position of the state makes it disaster-free. So, weather forecasts in the state do not have critical significance and public awareness about weather conditions is yet to catch up.

But, there's a cautionary note -- in places which are not hit by disasters, even a sudden heavy rainfall causes chaos as people are not prepared to accept the change.

He recalls some of the disappointing and challenging moments as a meteorologist. In 1989, there was an intense cyclone that crossed Kavali between Nellore and Ongole causing extensive damage to the area. "We had forecast a cyclone and people were warned, but when it actually occurred, it wasn't noticed by the weather observatory. Next day, when we saw the damage the cyclone had caused, it was shocking as we had not expected that scale of damage. Until then, it was believed that cyclone had a uniform pattern, but Kavali was a good learning experience."

And, of course, the tsunami. "When it occurred, I was watching television at home. As the news was flashed, I guessed it was a tsunami. At that time, not many were even aware of this type of cyclone or have the instruments to detect it. I knew as I had a chapter in my tenth standard (aliparalagal -- huge waves in the sea) on the tsunami.''

Most disappointing for him was the Orissa cyclone which was mistaken for a routine cyclone and with nowhere to run, people were trapped in a water-locked area. "Though the damage caused was unpreventable, several lives could have been saved. As meteorologist, I regret this the most."

Commenting on the advances in weather forecasting, he says science has not developed much in this area because of which weather is still unpredictable!

Severe cyclone ‘Aila’ crosses West Bengal coast - IMD

Sunday's deep depression in the Bay of Bengal basin intensified two rounds to become severe cyclone Aila which crossed the West Bengal coast on Monday afternoon.

The system was later traced to Gangetic West Bengal close to Diamond Harbour, and is expected to keep moving north weakening gradually in the process.

'Aila' set off gale-force winds and triggered torrential rainfall while hitting the home stretch causing loss of life and severe damage to property.

The landfall also heralded the onset of southwest monsoon over north-east India. The northern limit of monsoon was heaved as a whole to the north in the process.

The northward movement of monsoon had been tied with the fortunes of 'Aila' that posed a while before making the last-mile run towards Kolkata.

'Aila's picking up system strength and speed in lateral movement meant that the northern limit of monsoon would also get yanked to the north.


India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the northern limit aligned itself along Mangalore, Dharmapuri, Chennai, Paradip, Balasore, Bankura and Gangtok on Monday after the cross-over.

The monsoon has thus advanced further into north Kerala, parts of coastal Karnataka and south interior Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu. The IMD has warned of heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls (above 25 cm) over Gangetic West Bengal and north coastal Orissa over the next two days.

Isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely over the north-eastern States, Bihar, Jharkhand, Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

Forecast said that rain or thundershowers are likely at most places over Kerala and Lakshadweep, many places over coastal and south interior Karnataka and at a few places over coastal Andhra Pradesh and north interior Karnataka.


International weather models continued to suggest renewed but a comparably weaker but rain-friendly Madden-Julian Oscillation wave activity over south Arabian Sea and adjoining equatorial Indian Ocean around June 5.

This would have a rub-off effect on the circulatory pattern in the peninsular seas also as evidenced in multiple model forecast for re-convergence of the flows and revival of rains over the southwest coast.

In the first instance, residual convection available in the southwest and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal is shown to accentuate and burst out in rains south of Myanmar. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts tends to posit the activity over central Bay and later along the Andhra Pradesh coast.

As for the Arabian Sea, the Climate Prediction Centre (CPC) of the US National Weather Services sees cross-equatorial flows strengthening off the Horn of Africa and throwing up a 'low' over extreme west Arabian Sea.

It is later predicted to move east-northeast towards India's west coast but weakening in the process. It is ultimately shown to drift into the Mumbai-south Gujarat coast around June 8 even as rains build along the coast from south.

This could possibly herald the arrival of monsoon into the Konkan-Mumbai belt slightly ahead of schedule. The Roundy-Albany model for 'cyclogenesis' (birth of cyclone systems) also has pointed towards a flare-up along the Mumbai-south Gujarat region around this time.

Fisherman drowns, many missing in choppy seas

A fisherman, who was part of a group which ventured into the seas in 25 boats from Vizhinjam near here, drowned while six others were reported missing off the Colachel coast of Kanyakumari district today.

The body of the fisherman has been recovered, Coast Guard sources said. According to state Fisheries Minister S Sharma, the Coast Guard and the Marine Enforcement has already launched search operations and the government has sought the Navy's help to trace the missing fishermen.Coast Guard sources said some of the missing boats had been traced and was being brought back to shore.

The missing fishermen were part of 100-strong group who ventured into the sea in 25 country boats last evening. The incident came to light as two fishermen, who formed part of the group, returned home this morning and informed the authorities of the danger faced by others.

According to them, the boats might have lost their direction in the sea which had turned turbulent due to heavy rains last night.

Deadly Cyclone Aila Dissipates After a Landfall in Eastern India - NASA report

Cyclone Aila formed in the Bay of Bengal on May 24 and made a quick landfall the next day in eastern India. The storm killed up to 120 people in eastern India and neighboring Bangladesh combined. Aila has now dissipated inland over eastern India.

Cyclone 02B, later named Aila when it became a tropical storm, formed in the early morning hours of May 24 about 240 miles south of Kolkata, India. Aila strengthened quickly into a tropical storm later that day, then made landfall near Calcutta, India on Sunday, May 25 at 0900 Zulu Time (5 a.m. EDT) as a Category One Cyclone. It had sustained winds near 65 knots (74 mph) at the time of landfall. The threshold for a Category One Cyclone (or hurricane) starts at 74 mph and goes to 95 mph. Aila has since dissipated inland over eastern India.

According to a Reuters news report, Bangladesh's Daily Star newspaper reported at least 89 deaths as the search continues for others there. Meanwhile, 29 people were reported dead in the West Bengal State of eastern India. Aila's heavy rains caused agricultural damage to rice crops that were about to be harvested. The rains also raised river levels and broke through mud embankments. Winds downed trees, power lines and even collapsed houses. Hundreds of thousands of people fled into shelters.

The last warning from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center was issued on May 25 at 0900 Zulu Time (5 a.m. EDT), when Aila had sustained winds near 40 knots (46 mph). At that time, the center of circulation was located about 105 miles north-northwest of Kolkata, India, near 24.2 north and 88.5 east.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of cyclone Aila at 2:13 a.m. EDT (7:13 Zulu Time) on Monday, May 26, 2009. The storm was already dissipating at that time, and this image confirmed that, because the storm wasn't circular anymore.