Thousands evacuated along coasts as Bangladesh braces for cyclone Mora

Cyclone Mora is surging toward Bangladesh's coastlines forcing the evacuation of millions of people and shutting the country's main port, and river transport in the southern region.

Published : 29 May 2017, 09:14 PM
Updated : 29 May 2017, 09:15 PM

Hundreds of thousands of people have been moved to safety in coastal districts as the Met Office has upgraded the cyclone warning to Great Danger No. 10, the highest level of warning.

According to the Met Office, Mora is expected to make landfall on the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar coast early Tuesday, crossing over Kutubdia in Cox’s Bazar and Sandwip and Hatia in Chittagong with a wind speed of 89 to 117 kilometre per hour.

By Monday midnight, the tropical storm moved around 100km towards the coasts in three hours and was centred about 230km south-southwest of Cox's Bazar, 305km of Chittagong port, 380km south-southeast of Mongla port and 300km south-southeast of Payra port, it added.

The disaster management ministry earlier said it was moving to safety more than 2.5 million people in 10 coastal districts which were most vulnerable to the tropical storm.

About 18 million people live in 19 coastal districts, with 10 of them at high-risk areas.

It has been drizzling since morning in Cox’s Bazar, Patuakhali, Bagerhat and other coastal districts.

Many low-lying areas in Cox’s Bazar were flooded with waves at least four feet taller than usual lashing the tourist town.

The latest weather forecast says the sea will remain very rough and has advised all fishing boats, trawlers over the North Bay of Bengal and deep-sea to remain in shelter.

It said the cyclone might cause inundation of low-lying areas of Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Borguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barisal, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands as a four-to-five-feet high sea surge was expected during the storm.

The very warm waters of the Bay of Bengal caused a tropical low to develop into a depression on Sunday morning. By the afternoon, it had been upgraded to a deep depression, which turned into a cyclonic storm by early Monday morning.

The country's main seaport has suspended container handling, Chittagong Port Authority Secretary Omar Faruk told on Monday.

Shipments already unloaded from ships were being delivered, he said.

The port authorities have also raised their own alert to level 3. Port workers were securing heavy machinery and its own vessels.

All flights in and out of Chittagong’s Shah Amanat International Airport from Tuesday morning to afternoon have been cancelled.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority or BIWTA has suspended the operations of all river transports and issued cautionary signal No. 2 for all river ports.

The cyclone, which is expected to hit the Bangladesh coast late Monday or early Tuesday, may also disrupt lives and cause damage to properties in northeastern India and Myanmar, reports AccuWeather.

Mora may turn into a severe cyclonic storm -- equivalent to a strong tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane -- by Monday afternoon, says the weather media.

It said the strength of the damaging winds would be dependent on the strength of the storm at landfall, but wind gusts past 125km per hour appear likely late Monday and Tuesday.

Mayors, deputy commissioners, NGOs, local wings of the ruling Awami League and journalists held meetings in the areas on Monday to prepare for the evacuation.

They discussed ways and means to mitigate the possible loss of lives and property.

Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Ali Hossain said some 538 shelters were ready to accommodate more than 500,000 people with arrangements of some dry food.

A total of 88 medical units, 6,010 local volunteers and 15,000 Red Crescent volunteers were on the alert.

The government formed medical and rescue teams with personnel from various agencies, said Abu Syed Mohammad Hashim, director of the Disaster Management Department.

Around 50,000 more volunteers were on standby in 19 coastal districts.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has set up 24-hour control rooms in each of the Upazilas in these districts that can be reached at 9540454, 9545115, 9549116 and 01715-180192.