There is no place on Earth where hurricanes have caused more pain, suffering, and death, than the "North Indian Ocean" basin -- in essence, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
In November of 1970, the so-called "Bhola Cyclone" careened up the Bay and struck East Pakistan -- nowadays, Bangladesh -- at an extreme (though officially unknown) intensity. Because of the low-lying landfall region, the storm's surge traveled very far inland, and the death toll was catastrophic. Estimates range from 300,000 to as high as 500,000.
It was by far the deadliest hurricane known to human history.
In 1991 came a repeat: This time, a storm officially recognized as a Category 5 struck Bangladesh, killing more than 100,000, and displacing as many as 10 million. And then in 1999, once again: The Orissa Cyclone, a Category 5, struck India, killing 10,000.
I relate this history because even as I write, Cyclone Sidr, in the Bay of Bengal, is explosively intensifying. I don't know how strong the storm is right now -- the official tracking agency, the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi, lacks a recent update as I write this. To my eye the storm looks like at least a Category 3 or 4, and automated estimates would agree with that assessment.
In short, it looks like this storm is going to strike India or Bangladesh, and that it may be very powerful when it does so. November is a peak month for Bay of Bengal cyclone activity, and there's this added concern: The Bay of Bengal is, compared with the open Pacific Ocean, a relatively small area. Often cyclones form there but cannot become very intense before hitting land.
However, Sidr developed in the open ocean near the Andaman Islands, and has all the time it needs to reach peak intensity without obstruction. This is a scary, scary hurricane. Let's hope it weakens again, and does not hit a populous area.
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