Hundreds of thousands evacuated as cyclone hits Bangladesh

People moved to shelters across nation’s vast coastal region

A woman cleans her house damaged by Cyclone Bulbul in Bakkhali. Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP

A woman cleans her house damaged by Cyclone Bulbul in Bakkhali. Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP

 

A strong cyclone has made landfall in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of people have moved to shelters across the low-lying nation’s vast coastal region.

Packing winds of up to 120km/h and gusts of up to 130km/h, Cyclone Bulbul weakened when it started crossing Bangladesh’s south-western coastal region, dumping incessant rain across the country.

Officials said the cyclone slammed ashore at Sagar Island in the southern part of India’s West Bengal state.

Its path included the south-western Khulna region, which has the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, which straddles the Bangladesh-India border.

Up to 1.8 million people were expected to be evacuated, said Enamur Rahman, Bangladesh’s junior disaster management minister. More than 5,000 shelters had been prepared.

The weather office said coastal districts were likely to be inundated by storm surges of up to seven feet above normal tide because of the impact of the cyclone.

Emergency response

Several ships from Bangladesh’s navy and coastguard were kept ready in parts of the region for an emergency response, it was reported.

The storm is also expected to impact parts of north-eastern India, where precautions were being taken.

Mr Rahman said the government suspended weekend leave for government officials in 13 coastal districts.

On Saturday, volunteers used loudspeakers to ask people to move to shelters in Chittagong and other regions, according to the Disaster Management Ministry.

In some coastal districts, tourists were told to stay in their hotels.

Authorities suspended all activities in the country’s main seaports, including in Chittagong, which handles almost 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports and imports. All vessels and fishing boats were told to stop operating.

Local authorities ordered school buildings and mosques to be used as shelters in addition to dedicated cyclone shelters.

Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, has a history of violent cyclones.– AP