Dhaka, Bangladesh
Super-cyclone crossing coast

Super-cyclone crossing coast

Lakhs in disaster shelters * Ships from seaports sent into deep sea * Water transports at halt * Air services partly suspended * Army deployed

News Report A very severe cyclonic storm, euphemistically nicknamed Bulbul, began lashing Bangladesh's southern coast on Saturday night, prompting army troops and government volunteers to get ready for rescue operation. Latest Met forecasts said the cyclone could cross West Bengal-Khulna coast near the Sundarbans by midnight. A recent cyclone, Fani, from the Bay of Bengal had veered its course into the neighbouring Indian state, causing less damage in Bangladesh. "Maximum sustained wind speed within 74 kms of the cyclone centre is about 120kph, rising to 140kph in gusts or squalls, and will remain very high near the very severe cyclonic centre," says the Met alert. Sea will remain very high near the cyclone centre, says the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) forecast. It advised hoisting Great Danger Signal 10 at Mongla and Payra seaports and 9 at Chattogram port, warranting for the authorities to brace for tackling the oncoming calamity and its aftermath. Cox's Bazaar port was advised to hoist Local Warning Signal No 4. Under the influence of the storm and the moon phase, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Chattogram, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barishal, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands and chars are likely to be inundated by storm surge of 5-7 feet high above normal astronomical tide. The government has made extensive preparations to tackle the effects of the cyclone. Seven districts have been flagged as vulnerable to the effects of the storm and cyclone shelters have been set up in these districts for evacuation. These are Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali, Pirojpur and Bhola. Over 1.8 million people in the vulnerable coastal districts are being evacuated to 4,071 cyclone shelters. The government weekly holiday of Saturday and that of Eid-e-Mildunnabi on Sunday have been cancelled for the government employees in the seven vulnerable districts and six others, which are Noakhali, Feni, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Cox's Bazar, and Chattogram. Health department officials in these districts have formed 1,599 teams to attend to those affected by the cyclone. The authorities have suspended all sorts of activities at maritime ports and inland water- transport services across the country until further notice. All fishing boats and trawlers over the North Bay have been advised to remain in shelter until further notice while ships have been asked to move from the jetties to the outer anchorage. All flights to and from Cox's Bazar, Chattogram, Barisal and Jashore have been cancelled owing to the inclement weather under the influence of 'Bulbul'. "Around 300,000 people have been moved to safe shelters," said State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman in the afternoon. The number rose later. Director-General of Disaster Management Department Shahadat Hossain said work was underway to escort people in the seven vulnerable areas to safety. Police have been deployed to ensure that those who were not heeding the calls for evacuation are taken to the safety shelters, said Patuakhali's Kolapara Upazila Nirbahi Officer Munibur Rahman. Around 56,000 volunteers are ready to conduct rescue and relief efforts while the military bases at the coastal districts remain on alert. Control rooms have also been set up in each district. A total of 2,000 packets of dry food have already been supplied to the areas, according to the state minister. Volunteers were raising alert through microphone and 22 community radio stations. Army teams have been deployed in the coastal areas of Satkhira in order to combat the very severe cyclonic storm Bulbul. The army deployment took place on Saturday evening, said a statement sent by Inter Service Public Relation Directorate. All army cantonments, its bases, ships and helicopters in the coastal areas have been kept ready to face the very severe cyclonic storm 'Bulbul' and protect people from possible disasters. The infantry divisions of Bangladesh Army situated in the areas are prepared to tackle the cyclone and its aftermath, a source at the Inter-Service Public Relations told The Daily Star this evening. The ISPR in a release said army personnel were deployed in the country's coastal areas of Satkhira and Cox's Bazar as the cyclone may make landfall in the Sundarbans by this midnight. The LGRD ministry has opened a control room at the secretariat to oversee all preparations and coordinate to tackle the cyclone. Bangladesh raised the storm danger signal to the highest level as cyclone 'Bulbul' intensified further and is likely to cross West Bengal-Khulna coast near the Sundarbans by this midnight. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the government had taken all-out preparations to tackle the approaching severe cyclone 'Bulbul'. "To face this cyclone and protect the people, we've taken all-out preparations," she said while addressing the 13th national council of Bangladesh Jatiya Sramik League. Sheikh Hasina also said the government has taken preparations so that it could conduct relief operations right after the cyclone. She urged the people to pray to Almighty Allah so that the cyclone cannot cause any devastation. Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the party had taken massive preparations to stand by the coastal people. The government is well-equipped to tackle the very sever cyclonic storm "Bulbul" that is likely to cross West Bengal-Khulna coast near the Sundarbans by midnight tomight, he said. "Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina has urged the party leaders and workers to stand by the people in coastal areas to protect their lives and properties," the AL general secretary told a press conference after a meeting with AL sub-committee on relief and social welfare at the party president's Dhanmondi political office here. Quader, also Road Transport and Bridges Minister, said thousands of people have already been shifted to safer places to shelter them from the onslaught of the cyclonic storm "Bulbul". He said AL has formed a monitoring team headed by AL Relief and Social Welfare Secretary Sujit Roy Nandi in this regard. Besides, he along with the party's joint general secretaries and organizing secretaries is also monitoring the situation of the approaching cyclonic storm, Quader added. (Inputs taken from agencies, media reports)

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