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Bangladesh orders overnight evacuation of vulnerable people as cyclone Amphan approaches

Disaster Accident

Press Trust of India  |  Dhaka 

Bangladesh on Tuesday ordered overnight evacuation of vulnerable people to safety as Amphan, region's first super cyclone in over two decades, was fast approaching the country's coastline with the met office contemplating to issue the highest danger signal.

The disaster management ministry on Monday had set a target of evacuating over 2 million people to safety, readying 12,078 cyclone shelter centres but the authorities said it could be difficult to move out people on Wednesday as the killer storm was nearing the coast.

"The local authorities have been directed to complete the evacuation before midnight today," Enamur Rahman, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, told an emergency briefing from his office here.

"The Met office could issue their highest 'great danger signal' at 6 am tomorrow monitoring the situation overnight . . . so our goal is to move out all vulnerable people to safety by tonight," Rahman said.

He said a large number of people, however, by now were brought to cyclone shelters in 19 vulnerable districts in the country's southern coastlines.

The minister said that the 12,078 cyclone shelter centres in the coastal districts have the capacity of accommodating around 52 lakh people during any disaster.

But, only 20 to 22 lakh people will be accommodated in these shelter centres to maintain social distancing due to coronavirus fear," he said.

All big ships were taken to safe areas to avoid damage, he said.

Meteorologists said 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.

Bangladesh's met office on Monday afternoon issued a danger signal number 7 in a scale of 10 for regions under the purview of two of its southwestern seaports, Mongla and Payra.

The meteorologists said the world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, was likely to absorb the main brunt of the Amphan onslaughts as it has done many times over the centuries, leading to a less number of 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 told reporters.

Leading global storm tracker AccuWeather earlier today described Amphan as the first super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal since 1999, fearing the "ferocious" storm to unleash extreme impacts across Bangladeshi and northeastern Indian coastlines.

The latest Bangladesh met office bulletin said the Amphan over west-central bay and adjoining area moved north-northeast wards and lied over the same area (lat. 17.0on, long. 87.0oe).

It said the storms location at 3 pm today was centred at about 785 km southwest of Chattogram Port, 740 km southwest of Cox's Bazar Port, 670 km south-southwest of Mongla Port and 665 km south-southwest of Payra Port.

The cyclone is likely to move in a north-northeasterly direction and may cross Bangladesh coast between Khulna-Chattogram during afternoon or evening of May 20.

The Indian met office in a near identical statement said Amphan was very likely to move north-north-eastwards across northwest Bay of Bengal and cross West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts.

It predicted the path to be between Indian West Bengal's Digha and Bangladesh's Hatiya Islands close to Sundarbans "during afternoon to evening hours of May 20 with maximum sustained wind speed of 155-165 kp/h gusting to 185kp/h".

Minister Enamur Rahman said army and navy troops were also engaged to assist the local administrations in bringing the vulnerable coastal people to safe places as they were already at the scene on COVID-19 duty.

Repots from the low lying coastlines, however, said that officials and volunteers were struggling to motivate people to move to safety as many were found unwilling to take refuge in shelters leaving valuables and cattle unprotected at their homestead.

Rahman said the health ministry has also taken measures to provide treatment facilities for the coastal people readying medical teams with necessary medicines to this end.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 19 2020. 21:25 IST