US university helped save lives in Cyclone Sidr


New York : A university in the US provided such detailed information on Cyclone Sidr that Bangladeshi officials were able to move people away and probably saved countless lives.

Support TwoCircles

Almost 24 hours before the storm hit Bangaldesh’s coast, emergency officials received detailed storm surge maps from the Louisiana State University (LSU) that showed the areas that would bear the maximum impact of Sidr.

The maps were sent by Bangladesh origin Hassan Mashriqui, an assistant professor at LSU, and helped officials move people out of harm’s way ahead of the storm that has left several thousand dead and displaced millions.

“It’s nice to know that LSU’s capabilities helped people there before disaster struck,” said Mashriqui. “It’s the practical application of all of our theoretical research.”

According to Mashriqui, when he saw the cyclone developing in the Bay of Bengal on Nov 12, he contacted Robert Twilley, who heads LSU’s Shell Coastal Environmental Modelling Laboratory (CEML) and got access to CEML’s supercomputing capabilities to create storm surge models.

On Nov 14, in Tampa, Florida, to give a lecture, Mashriqui received the first model. What he saw had him scrambling to contact Bangladesh officials.

“These models are incredibly accurate and highly detailed,” Mashriqui said. “You can pinpoint events down to small counties and towns. We were looking at a 10-12 foot storm surge that would devastate anything in its path.”

Through an LSU student whose father is a top Bangladeshi official, Mashriqui communicated his findings to dozens of agencies that then raised the danger signal to its highest level and moved people out of harm’s way before the storm hit.

Mashriqui, who began running storm surge models on the Bay of Bengal several years ago, is a part of LSU’s Bay of Bengal Cyclone Surge Modelling Programme.

This project provides modelling support for the Bay of Bengal basin and strives to build partnerships with appropriate agencies.

“The advance notice we were able to provide certainly saved lives and helped to lessen the devastation,” said Mashriqui.

“When you can pinpoint the areas of impact and determine the level of storm surge that far ahead of landfall, it provides critical time for agencies and officials to focus energy and resources to the areas that will need them most.”