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US Army-Bangladesh exercise hones earthquake disaster response

The largest humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise held annually in Bangladesh, attended by more than 150 civil and military authorities, wound up Thursday in the country’s capital of Dhaka.

This was the fifth engagement between the government of Bangladesh and U.S. Army Pacific intended to promote emergency preparedness.

The four-day Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange was held at numerous locations throughout Dhaka, including the Fire Service and Civil Defence Training Academy and the airfield at Tejgaon.

This year’s exercise specifically addressed readiness for earthquake response and recovery in Dhaka.

“The geographical location and topographical features of Bangladesh have made us vulnerable for all kinds of natural disasters,” said Mesbah ul Alam, secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, in a statement released by USARPAC. “Cyclones, flood ... and drought are natural disasters that could happen. Historical instances in Bangladesh and adjoining areas indicate that Bangladesh is vulnerable to earthquake damage.”

A large-scale earthquake Dhaka, the country’s most populous city, could bring down an estimated 70,000 buildings, trapping thousands of people, the Army statement said.

“The mind cannot even begin to fathom a disaster of this magnitude, but fathom it we must,” said Dan Mozena, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, in the Army statement. “We simply must think the unthinkable, imagine the unimaginable, prepare for the disaster of all disasters.”

Although the exercise was led by the Bangladesh Armed Forces Division and USARPAC, the exercise involved the support of many civilian institutions, such as the Bangladesh Department of Disaster Management, Bangladesh Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme, U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, and the World Food Programme.

The Pacific Resilience exercises are USARPAC’s primary method of sharing with other countries best practices and lessons learned concerning disaster relief.
Pacific Resilience exercises have been held in six countries since 2000, with plans to hold them next year in Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia, the Lower Mekong Basin and Papua New Guinea, the Army statement said.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com
Twitter: @wyattwolson

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