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Bangladesh Prepares For Urban ‘Mega Quake’ In Disaster Simulation

DHAKA – An earthquake so violent that entire cities are largely demolished – this is what national authorities and aid agencies have gathered to prepare for this week, as part of a major disaster-simulation exercise.

Jointly organised by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, the simulation brings together key emergency-response agencies, including Government officials, NGOs and UN agencies.

“Identifying areas of improvement and testing coordination mechanisms will help us be better prepared if a powerful earthquake hits,” said WFP Bangladesh Representative Christa Räder.

Bangladesh sits on a three-way junction of major tectonic plates, and dangerous pressure is building along a fault line, according to research published earlier this year. The situation could unleash a massive earthquake, putting as many as 140 million lives at risk in the greater region.

Those most at risk would be the inhabitants of poorly-constructed urban centres, which have the highest population density in the world and are very congested. An earthquake would bring enormous destruction in these areas, and search-and-rescue efforts would be extremely complicated.

The simulation exercise is designed to improve logistical readiness in order to reduce the impact of a future urban disaster. It is part of a series of exercises organised by WFP to support Government preparations for a large-scale emergency.

Despite good progress in emergency preparedness in recent years, Bangladesh remains one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters. Experts fear that a powerful earthquake could also cause a severe food crisis even in the longer term, and potentially offset gains in poverty reduction and agricultural production.

Over the coming three days in the city of Sylhet, participants will work in teams to develop responses to an evolving emergency scenario. At the end, each team’s operations plan will be evaluated by a panel of Government officials who are in charge of coordinating the country’s emergency responses.

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

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For more information please contact (email address:
Christa Räder, Representative, WFP Bangladesh, Tel. +880-2-918-302-233
Daniel Svanlund, Communications Officer, WFP Bangladesh, Tel. +880-2-918-3022 ext. 2164