Bangladesh is prone to cyclones due to its social and geographical conditions. In recent years, coastal areas of Bangladesh suffered from the serious damages caused by two devastating cyclones; Sidr in 2007 and Aila in 2009. The government and international cooperation agencies have been tackling with mitigating cyclone disasters, mainly through construction of cyclone shelters, which can accommodate 500-2,500 people per shelter in case of cyclones (Paul et al, 2002). As a result of the construction of approximately 4,000 cyclone shelters, the death toll has been drastically decreasing. However, although these cyclone shelters are used as elementary schools in normal time, not enough consideration are given to be used as temporary living quarters during and after cyclones. At this point, there are only some researches mentioned the use of cyclone shelters during cyclones, whereas they did not focus on how the local people used cyclone shelters as temporary living quarters during post-disaster reconstruction. Dealing with these problems, BRAC University constructed a new type of cyclone shelters in the form of houses named ‘mini shelters’ in order not to evacuate to cyclone shelters when cyclones come.
The objective of this research is to contribute the government's cyclone mitigation schemes, especially in terms of the proper utilization during cyclones and the construction of cyclone shelters which can be used in all cyclone prone areas. This research was conducted based on the literature reviews and the field surveys. The literature review revealed the damage of cyclone disasters and the mitigation program in Bangladesh. Field surveys were conducted from August to September 2015 in Padmapukur Union and Hatiya Isaland, which were affected by Cyclone Aila in 2009 and Cyclone Komen in 2015 respectively. Questionnaire and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 70 households in Hatiya Island and 66 households in Padmapukur in order to collect detailed information on the use of cyclone shelters during cyclones and post-cyclone reconstruction and actual issues of cyclone shelters.
The research findings show that most of people in Hatiya Island made decisions to evacuate to cyclone shelters immediately after they have received cyclone waning signals, while most of people in Padmapukur Union did not evacuate immediately. Most of the evacuees spent their long-term evacuation period for several days to several months in cyclone shelters even after cyclones. It is proven that the cyclone shelters are used as temporary living quarters during post-cyclone reconstruction, although they were designed as evacuation centers only for a few hours during the inundation. Moreover, most of cyclone shelters are used as elementary schools in normal time hence some rooms such as storage rooms and staff rooms are locked during cyclones due to the poor management which led to the low of consideration of these cyclone shelters to be used as evacuation centers or temporary living quarters. Most of people in Hatiya Island are well-prepared for evacuation. The preparation includes packing dry foods and other daily necessities in advance of every cyclone season. Therefore, they are able to properly manage their long-term evacuation period at cyclone shelters.
Another finding shows ‘mini shelters’ might be used not only as evacuation centers but also as livestock stores during cyclones. Local people doubt the safety of ‘mini shelters’ because the second floor is made of wood and the height from the ground level to the second floor is only 3.3m lower than the water level of the biggest cyclone's storm surge. In addition, the cost of construction of ‘mini shelters’ are too expensive to construct as houses. On the other hand, ‘mini shelters’ might be useful in remote coastal areas where limited space for cyclone shelters is.