Cyclone is the name given to hurricane-type storms that arise in the Indian Ocean, while typhoons are those that start in the Pacific Ocean and hurricanes are those found in the Atlantic. Cyclone 2B, as August 1991 storm was known, had been tracked for a week as it made its way north through the Bay of Bengal. It slammed into the southeastern coast of Bangladesh in the Chittagong region on August 29.
The southeastern region of Bangladesh is a river delta where the Ganges and other rivers flow into the Indian Ocean. It is particularly prone to floods and is also in the path of many cyclones. Despite the dangers, the impoverished people of the region continue to live in the area because of its fertile soil. Many thousands of people also inhabit the small islands and exposed coast of the southeast.
In 1970, an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people lost their lives to a powerful cyclone, prompting locals to build some storm shelters. However, not enough people took advantage of these havens before the 1991 storm, deciding to wait out the cyclone in their mud and straw huts. This proved disastrous when 150 mph winds caused a 20-foot surge of water across the region. Some islands were entirely swamped. Thousands of people were washed out to sea and drowned during the nine-hour storm.