After Nargis, it will be Cyclone Abe
As Myanmar copes with the devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis, meteorologists from South and Southeast Asia are ready with the name of the next cyclone to hit the region - one called Abe.
And astrological predictions are not at work here; only a systematic way of listing names for disasters yet to strike.
"It's better to give identity to the cyclones. Countries around the north Indian Ocean have prepared a list of names which will be given to the cyclones," said RC Bhatia, additional director general of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
"A name helps authorities, the country and, above all, people around the world to remember the disaster. It is certainly helping us in becoming systematic and keeping a record of such disasters," Bhatia told IANS.
For now, met officials have decided the names of cyclones till 2009. Eight countries - Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand - have prepared a list of 64 names. When a hurricane hits these countries, it takes the name next on the list.
Before Nargis caused havoc in military-ruled Myanmar last week, killing at least 22,000 people, Cyclone Sidr in November 2007 left 4,000 people dead in Bangladesh. The name came from Oman.
Since 2004, these countries have faced 14 cyclones.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has branded them tropical Cyclone Escap Panel countries. The list of cyclones is maintained in an alphabetical manner, country-wise.
The countries take turns in naming the cyclones. The last six were Ogni (named by Bangladesh), Akash (India), Gonu (Maldives), Yemyin (Myanmar), Sidr (Oman), and now Nargis, named by Pakistan. The next cyclone, Abe, has been named by Sri Lanka. After that, it will be Khai-Muk, named by Thailand.
"Once a cyclone causes a major devastation, the name is not given to any other cyclone. The name is deleted from the list and it becomes a part of history. For example no cyclone will ever be named Nargis again," said Akhilesh Gupta, scientific advisor to the science and technology ministry.
Gupta, former director of the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, said every year all the eight countries meet in the month of March to choose new names.
The naming of cyclones has an interesting history. The trend started in the 19th century in Australia where cyclones were named after corrupt politicians. Then met officials in some countries named cyclones after their former girlfriends or divorced wives, explained Gupta.
In the 1970s, the WMO in Geneva asked some countries around the Pacific Ocean to prepare a list of names and keep it ready.
For India and the north Indian Ocean countries the concept is relatively new. The list was started in 2004 and the current list will be used till 2009.