Cyclone Amphan: Bangladesh shifts over two million people; armed forces put on alert
Dhaka, May 20 (PTI): Bangladesh has shifted over two million people to storm shelters and deployed the military to deal with the powerful cyclone ‘Amphan’ which is set to make a landfall on the costal districts, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Wednesday.
Authorities have already raised the alert level to ‘great danger’ for some districts in the country as the cyclone, the most powerful storm since cyclone ‘Sidr’ killed nearly 3,500 people in 2007, was approaching the coastline.
“We have the preparations (to face cyclone Amphan). We are taking all possible measures that we should adopt for protecting the lives and properties of the people from the cyclone,” Prime Minister Hasina told a meeting of the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) formed to review the preparations in facing the possible assault of the super cyclone.
“Twenty lakh people have so far been evacuated to the cyclone centres as part of the prior preparation,” Hasina was quoted as saying by The Daily Star newspaper.
The Bangladesh Army, Navy and Air Force have made preparations to tackle the super cyclone which has moved within 400km of Bangladesh’s coast and is expected to make landfall on Wednesday evening, Bdnews24.com reported.
A Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRC) volunteer drowned on Wednesday when a boat capsized while evacuating villagers to safety in southwestern Patuakhali, becoming the first victim of Amphan.
“He was on a boat along with four others when a sudden storm under advancing Amphan’s influence overturned it. Three others managed to escape,” BDRC’s cyclone preparedness programme Nurul Islam Khan told PTI.
Meanwhile, onrush of waters washed away some 740 houses in Patuakhali as an advanced surge of tide cracked a coastal embankment while the cyclone was approaching with its main brunt, officials said.
Officials said people agreed to leave their vulnerable homes in the past few hours after officials convinced them about the intensity of Amphan, feared to be the deadliest in entire South Asian region in two decades.
“So far 23,90,307 people have been moved to safety along with over half a million cattle… The increased number of people prompted us to increase the number of cyclone shelters from 12,078 to 14,336 in 19 of the southern coastal districts, state minister for disaster management Enamur Rahman told a media briefing in the afternoon.
The Navy has deployed 25 ships as part of three-tier efforts to conduct emergency rescue, relief and medical operations in the immediate aftermath of the super cyclone, the report said.
Two maritime patrol aircraft and two helicopters were also at the ready to conduct search operations over the Bay of Bengal and in the coastal districts, the Inter Services Public Relations Directorate (ISPR) said.
The Army has prepared 18,400 packets of relief materials and formed 71 medical teams. As many as 145 disaster management teams with special equipment are also ready to be deployed at short notice, the ISPR said.
The Air Force will assess the possible damage along with medical, relief and rescue efforts by using six transport aircraft and 22 helicopters, it said. Bangladesh’s met office earlier today issued its highest Great Danger Signal for the regions under the purview of the southwestern Mongla and Payra ports, replacing the previously issued mere Danger Signal .
In a midday bulletin, authorities issued the identical Great Danger Signal for the seaports of Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar and their adjoining southwestern regions.
Meteorologists said that in a scale of 11, great danger signal no 8, 9 and 10 carry identical meaning in terms of intensity while the numbers differ only to indicate approaching storms’ directions. Signal no. 11 is called Communication Failure Signal No. XI, indicating severed communications of the meteorological warning centre to the affected region.
The meteorologists said the world largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, was likely to absorb the main brunt of the Amphan onslaughts as it did many times over the centuries, including that of the recent major storms, to minimise the human casualties.
“The Sundarbans always absorbed the brunt of cyclones whichever hit the coastlines alongside the Bangladesh-India. We expect the forest to face the initial impact of Amphan like foot soldiers this time as well,” Bangladesh’s meteorology department director Shamsuddin Ahmed earlier told newsmen.
According to the latest met office bulletin issued this afternoon, the cyclone was located at about 420-km southwest of north-eastern Chattogram, 430-km southwest of north-eastern Cox’s Bazar, 200-km southwest of southwestern Mongla and 250-km southwest of southwestern Payra ports.
The met office predicted its landfall between 4-8 pm.
Amphan coinciding with the influence of the end day of last quarter moon could inundate low-lying areas of coastal Satkhira, Khulna, Bagherhat, Jhalokathi, Pirojpur, Borguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barishal, Laxmipur, Noakhali, Feni, Chattogram and their offshore islands and shoals under as high as 19 feet high tides beyond the normal astronomical ones.
The bulletin reiterated that these mostly southwestern and central coastal region were likely to experience simultaneously strong winds speeding up to 140-160 kmph in gusts or squalls with heavy to very heavy rain falls during the passage of the cyclone.
Leading global storm tracker AccuWeather on Tuesday described Amphan as the first super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal since 1999.