In May 1985, a cyclone from the Bay of Bengal struck the coastal islands of Bangladesh. In spite of early detection of atmospheric turbulance and the history of severe cyclones in the area, an estimated 11,000 people lost their lives.
In a natural experiment, cyclone death rates from the two severely affected islands, Urir Char and Sandwip, were analyzed to determine the risk factors of cyclone-associated mortality.
In Urir Char, in which no cyclone shelters existed, the study group lost 40 percent of the family members in contrast to 3.4 percent from Sandwip, where at least eight cyclone shelters existed. Individuals who did not seek shelter were at the highest risk. Barriers in seeking safety were physical as well as behavioral. Easy access to shelters was a significant factor in reducing the risk. Deaths could have been averted through improved timing and method of advance warning.