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Over 800,000 Flee as Cyclone Nears Bangladesh


Sun 26 May 2024 | 06:21 PM
Israa Farhan

More than 800,000 residents of Bangladesh have evacuated their coastal villages on Sunday, seeking refuge in concrete shelters ahead of a severe cyclone expected to make landfall.

Senior government disaster management officials have confirmed this large-scale evacuation.

Cyclone Remal is anticipated to strike the southern coast of Bangladesh and parts of neighboring India by Sunday evening.

The Bangladesh Meteorological Department forecasts high waves and winds reaching speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour.

Historically, cyclones have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Bangladesh. The frequency and intensity of these storms have significantly increased in recent decades, rising from one per year to as many as three, exacerbated by climate change.

Meteorological official Mohammad Abu Kalam Mallick warned that the cyclone could trigger a storm surge up to 12 feet (four meters) above normal astronomical tide levels, posing a severe threat.

Most of the country's coastal areas lie just one to two meters above sea level, making them vulnerable to devastating storm surges.

Authorities have raised the danger signal to its highest level, warned fishermen against going to sea, and ordered evacuations for those in vulnerable areas.

In Kuakata, situated directly in the cyclone's expected path, local fisherman Yusuf Fakir expressed deep concern. He sent his family inland to a relative's home but remained behind, recalling the destruction caused by previous cyclones.

As residents fled, a crowded ferry carrying more than 50 passengers, double its capacity, sank after being overwhelmed by rough waters near Mongla port, which is also in the cyclone's projected path.

Local police chief Shafiqul Rahman Tusher reported that at least 13 people were injured and hospitalized, and rescue boats brought the remaining passengers to safety.

Government disaster management official Kamrul Hasan stated that orders had been issued to relocate people from "unsafe and weak" homes.

About 800,000 individuals have already been moved to cyclone shelters in coastal regions.

Authorities have mobilized tens of thousands of volunteers to alert residents about the impending danger.

Hasan noted that around 4,000 cyclone shelters have been prepared along the extensive coastline facing the Bay of Bengal. Cyclone Remal is expected to impact a 220-kilometer stretch from India’s Sagar Island to Khepupara in Bangladesh.

The cyclone is forecasted to make landfall between 6 PM and midnight local time (1200-1800 GMT), according to the state-run Bangladesh Meteorological Department.