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Hurricanes: Science and Society
1737- Hooghly River

The Hooghly River Cyclone of 1737 is recorded as one of deadliest natural disasters of all time. The cyclone, often referred to as the Calcutta Cyclone, did widespread damage to the low lying areas in the region.

Early in the morning on October 11, 1737, a large cyclone made landfall inside the Ganges River Delta, located just south of Calcutta, West Bengal, India. The cyclone caused a storm surge 10-13 m (30-40 ft) in the Ganges with a reported 381 mm (15 in) of rain falling in a 6-hour period. The storm tracked approximately 330 km (200 mi) inland before dissipating.

In the city of Calcutta, the majority of structures, which were mostly made of mud with straw roofs, were destroyed, with many brick structures also damaged beyond repair. A spire on the St. Anne’s church reportedly sunk and listed to side, and was not approved for repair until 1751. The East India Company’s records report 3,000 deaths occurring in Calcutta alone. In the Ganges, 9 out of 8 boats were lost along with most of their crews, and 3 out of 4 Dutch ships also went down.

Overall the cyclone reportedly destroyed 20,000 water going vessels, ranging from ocean worthy ships to canoes, and killed 300,000 to 350,000 individuals, likely including ships’ crews as well as the local populations in low-lying Bengal.

Fast Facts

  • India’s Ganges River Delta is prone to tropical cyclones. Additional cyclones with death tolls reported over 10,000 people struck again in 1787, 1789, 1822, 1833, 1839, 1864, 1876, and later.
  • Dispute over the actual date of the cyclone has occurred, as the British Empire had not yet converted to the Gregorian calendar system at that time (it was adopted in 1752). Some accounts of the storm report it occurring 30 September, which corresponds to 11 October when converted to the Gregorian system.


Bilham, Roger. “The 1737 Calcutta Earthquake and Syclone Evaluated” October, 1984.

Rao, Pitta Govinda. “A probe into the Calcutta earthquake of 1737”
Current Science, Vol. 69, September 1995.
Emanuel, Kerry. “Divine Wind: The history of Science of Hurricanes”
Pub. 2005. Page 223