November 13, 1970: Bhola Cyclone Kills Triple A-Bomb Death Toll!

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A Brief History

On November 12-13, 1970, an Indian Ocean cyclone with winds over 150 mph hit what is now Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) killing more than 3 times the number of people killed in the Atom Bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined! Half a million people died in the low lands of the Ganges River delta, mostly from the storm surge that flooded the area.

Digging Deeper

In addition to massive loss of human life, thousands of homes and other buildings were washed away, thousands of acres of crops were destroyed, thousands of domestic and wild animals died, and the event touched off such a backlash against the Pakistani government located far away in West Pakistan in Islamabad (in what is now Pakistan) that rebellion followed.

The horrific storm and its devastation caused the unseating of the Pakistani government a month later, and the resulting war for independence of East Pakistan, now called Bangladesh. The war for independence of Bangladesh also resulted in a quite famous Concert for Bangladesh organized by musicians George Harrison of the Beatles and Ravi Shankar (father of current pop star Norah Jones).

George Harrison – The Concert for Bangladesh from Retazovvorks on Vimeo.

Since the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945 by the United States (a hotly debated action meant to hasten the end of World War II) killed around 100,000 to 150,000 combined, the Bhola Cyclone killed around 3 times as many people, plus some, to give this catastrophe some perspective. The Bhola Cyclone is ranked as the 5th worst natural disaster in human history (measured by loss of human life), and the 3rd worst from flooding. The Bhola Cyclone is the deadliest storm (hurricane, cyclone, tornado) type of disaster ever.

The power of Nature is awesome and not something to be sneezed at. The possibility of a natural catastrophe such as an asteroid striking the Earth, a mega-volcano eruption, or a new Ice Age brought on by climate change can have the effect of making human kind extinct. Horrific natural disasters are not something people can stop from happening, so all we can reasonably do at this time is to attempt to predict when, where and how they will hit to allow for evacuations and preparations, and to prepare a response to deal with the aftermath. Meanwhile, extremely poor third world people living on low land near coasts will continue to be potential victims of tsunamis and storms, with enormous potential for loss of life.

Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think people should do in order to deal with future natural disasters? Should we consider them a natural way of “thinning the herd” or should we pour in medical, shelter, and food supplies to affected areas? Should mankind invest in ways of minimizing climate change, knowing that these measures to reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere can be quite expensive? Please give us your opinions on these subjects in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Harrison, George, Ringo Starr, et al.  Concert for Bangladesh.  Capitol, 2005.  Audio CD.

Rohde, Cornelia.  Catalyst: In the Wake of the Great Bhola Cyclone.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.

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About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.