DHAKA: The cyclonic storm ‘Mahasen’ on Thursday hit Bangladesh’s southern Patuakhali coast with wind speed up to 90 kilometers per hour, killing one person, officials said.
“The cyclonic storm ‘Mahasen’ started crossing the coast near Patuakhali (Khapupara). The coast grazing cyclone is likely to move northeasterly direction further and may cross Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar coast by noon of May 16,” the latest bulletin from Bangladesh Meteorological Department said.
It said the storm was centered at 9 A.M. about 270 kms southwest of Chittagong Port, 225 kms southwest of Cox’s Bazar Port and 210 kms south of Mongla port.
The storm might widen in impact and hit Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar coast with speeds up to 100 kilometers per hour.
Meanwhile, reports said one person was killed as inflated waters coupled with gusts started ravaging parts of Patuakhali alongside the other areas adjacent to the Bay of Bengal in the region. More than 100 huts have collapsed in Patuakhali amidst a power blackout in
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated to safety as the cyclone approached Bangladesh coastlines with the Met Office Director, Mr Shah Alam saying “We earlier said the Mahasen could hit the coastline in the morning, but now we expect it to arrive by the midday as its speed has been slowed down“.
The evacuation campaign was launched last night as the met office issued Danger Signal No 7 in a scale of 10 for northeastern coastlines, while authorities said armed forces were kept ready with troops, ships and helicopters to launch rescue operations when the cyclonic storm hit the coast.
But reports and residents said gusty winds accompanied by thunder showers signalled the advancement of the cyclonic storm in coastlines stretching from south-eastern Teknaf to southwestern Khepupara.
Witnesses said rain soaked people, who earlier preferred to stay at home until the last minute, were taking refuges in cyclone shelters, as the sea turned very rough.
The storm with an estimated central pressure of 990 hpa also inflated waters in the confluences.
The Met office said the cyclone was likely to intensify further and move in a north-northeasterly direction and may cross Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar coast by the noon with the storm surge of 8 to 10 feet height above normal astronomical tide storm inundating the low lying areas in 13 coastal districts.
According to the bulletin, maximum sustained wind speed within 54 kms of the storm centre is about 62 kph rising to 90 kph in gusts or squalls. “Due to very heavy rainfall, landslide may occur at places over the hilly regions of Chittagong division,” it said.
Officials in Chittagong, Bandarban hill district and Cox’s Bazar, however, said as part of the evacuation campaign they asked people to move out of their homesteads at foothills fearing the downpour to cause deadly landslides.Authorities have declared the services of the government employees at the coastlines temporarily essential for rescue campaigns, while community radio services were activated in many areas so they could work as the communication channels.
The community radio services were launched in the coastlines in a large scale after the deadly Sidr hit the southwestern coastline in 2007, killing 3,363 people, and the subsequent Aila cyclone in 2009 that left 190 dead.
Authorities yesterday temporarily closed the seaports in Chittagong and Mongla as well as airports in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong, while Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) also ordered small boats and vessels to be stationed in safety in the face of the impending danger.
The Disaster Management Department Director General, Mr Abdul Wajed said the local administration at Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar were asked to declare, if required, the commercial establishments like hotels as makeshift shelters.
An armed forces division spokesman said that alongside the army troops, navy kept ready 22 of their ships and the air force their 19 helicopters and four transport planes to launch the rescue campaigns alongside the civil administration.
“We have provided the air force 20,000 special parachutes to drop packs of emergency food, each weighing seven and half kilograms, in places where the helicopters could not land,” Mr Wajed said.
Asked what the most crucial challenge the rescuers were exposed to, he said “clean water“.
The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society’s international affairs director, Mr Nazmul Azam Khan said their 49,365 volunteers launched the evacuation campaign at the 13 districts.
“The trained volunteers are equipped with megaphones, torches, medical kits and other required equipment for facing the pre and post cyclone phases,” he said.
The National Health Crisis Management Centre and control room of the health directorate said 1,327 government medical teams were mobilised at the coastlines with maximum 283 in Chittagong.