12 November 1970. The night had not been a normal one like ten others for the coastal people in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh).
Throughout the whole day, the Met office broadcast Great Danger Signal-10 on the radio. But most of the people missed it as there had not been enough radios in coastal areas.
It had been raining heavily since 11 November morning. The wind began to blow in gusts in the evening. The coastal people could not understand what had been going to happen to them a while later. At midnight, the "Great Bhola Cyclone" destroyed everything.
Accompanied by a mountainous storm surge, the deadliest tropical cyclone lashed coastal districts, including Bhola, Noakhali and Laxmipur, at a speed of about 222kmph and killed about 500,000 people in an official count. Coastal people still feel weepy after recalling those horrible moments.
The World Meteorological Organisation of the United Nations, on 17 May 2017, published a list of five deadliest weather events of all times across the globe. The Bhola Cyclone made it to the top on the list.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the catastrophic cyclone.
Talking to a few eyewitnesses who survived that storm, The Business Standard has learnt the most number of casualties had occurred in present-day Bhola and the former Noakhali Coast (now Noakhali-Laxmipur).
Besides, the storm had hit other coastal areas, including Barguna, Patuakhali and Chattogram, too.
Abdul Haque, a farmer of Char Lawrence under Kamalnagar upazila who survived after 3 days of fight in the storm, said former Ramgati char areas (now Ramgati-Kamalnagar) in Laxmipur went under 20-30 feet water because of the storm surge. Countless people, including children, elderly, women and men, had been swept away by the current.
Haji Nurul Islam, the then vice chairman of the relief committee formed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, said, "After the storm had stopped, we saw only corpses scattered all around. People could not go near them because of a foul smell. The bodies could not be buried due to inundation in the whole area."
Kamal Uddin Ahmed had been the leader of Kamalnagar Upazila Cyclone Preparedness Committee at that time. He said about 50,000 people lost their lives in the district that night.
In the cyclone and tidal waves, Char Abdullahpur (now Kamalnagar) on the Meghna coast, Char Kadira on the Bhulua coast and Noakhali's Hatiya turned out to be a barren place, he also said.
Relatives of the cyclone victims and local people became emotional when this correspondent talked to them about the cyclone 50 years later.
Master Mofiz Ullah, a freedom fighter, rescue worker and resident of Kamalnagar, said there were only dead bodies all around on the following morning. No one did anything that day about such a big loss of life as well as a destruction.
Demand for declaring 12 Nov as national, international coastal day
Meanwhile, since 2017, 12 November has been observed across the coastal region as the Coastal Day.
A local organisation called Coastal Journalists Forum has been seeking a declaration of 12 November as a national and international day.
Rafiqul Islam Montu, coordinator of the forum, said if there is a separate day for the coastal areas, it would be easy to spread thoughts about the coasts among all quickly, by bringing the region's risk aspects and development issues to the notice of all.
Notably, about 5 crore people live with manifold natural hazards along the coastal belt of Bangladesh stretching from Shah Porir Dwip in Teknaf of Cox's Bazar to Kalinchi village in Shyamnagar of Satkhira.