Bangladesh has begun evacuating 2.5 million people as the extremely dangerous cyclone Fani is closing on the southern coast of the country.
According to a met office bulletin on Friday, after hitting the Puri coast in India’s Odisha, the cyclone is now staying at 605 km southwest of Bangladesh’s Mongla Port in southern Khulna region and 790 km west-southwest of Chattogram Port in southeastern Bangladesh.
Bangladesh on Thursday issued the danger alert over cyclone Fani that is heading towards its coastlines.
A special bulletin of Bangladesh Meteorological Department Friday said the cyclone would reach Khulna and adjoining south-western part of Bangladesh by midnight on Friday.
All the fishing boats, trawlers and maritime vessels have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.
Local administrations in Chattogram and Khulna have ordered evacuation of millions of people as Fani in the Bay of Bengal is poised to cross the country’s southern coast after Friday evening.
Bangladeshi Disaster Management and Relief Secretary, Shah Kamal on Friday said more than 404,250 people have been taken to the cyclone shelters from dozens of coastal districts.
He said by Friday evening more people vulnerable to the storm would be brought to 4,071 cyclone shelters.
The number of people told to evacuate in the coastal districts has been estimated at 2.5 million, said the official.
He said members from Bangladesh Navy, coastguard, police, voluntary organisations and political parties were supporting the massive evacuation efforts.
Officials said control rooms set up in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country were on constant touch with the local authorities where thousands of volunteers joined hands with government officials in carrying out the evacuation and salvage campaign.
Announcements were being made in loudspeakers in the coastal districts and red flags were raised in disaster prone areas.
TV reports said southern and southeastern coastal districts have been experiencing gusty winds from Thursday morning as the cyclone was approaching.
Shamsuddin Ahmed, Director at Bangladesh Meteorological Department, had earlier said that Fani would surely make its landfall in Bangladesh.
“We’ve made all-out preparations to tackle the cyclone,” Bangladeshi Home Minister, Asaduzzaman Kamal, said on Thursday.
“We’ll try our best to reduce loss or damage to life and property by making maximum use of capabilities.’’
Television footage showed on Friday afternoon widespread flooding in coastal areas of Khulna and Chattogram and other districts where hundreds of thousands of people have also reportedly been evacuated from their homes.
Officials said medical teams had been mobilised to deal with the impact of the cyclone and leave had been cancelled for all government officials and employees.
Cities including capital Dhaka are experiencing drizzle and gusty wind on Friday afternoon as an impact of the advancing cyclone.
Officials said normal activities at premier Chattogram seaport were shut down and people living in risky areas were asked to go to hundreds of cyclone shelters in the districts.
Tornado and cyclones, killing hundreds of people every year, are common occurrences in Bangladesh.
The economic loss from cyclone Aila, which hit Bangladesh’s southwestern coast in May 2009, was estimated at 18.85 billion taka (about 269.28 million U.S. dollars).
Cyclone Aila formed in Bay of Bengal battered Bangladesh’s southwestern coast, leaving at least 179 people dead and more than three million affected in about a dozen of districts in the coastal areas.
Cyclone Aila was the biggest natural calamity in the South Asian delta country after the powerful cyclone Sidr hit the country’s southwestern coastal belt in 2007, leaving more than 4,000 people dead or missing.
Similarly, three people died in India’s eastern state of Odisha as the extremely severe cyclone Fani hit the state on Friday morning and continued till beyond noon.
Local media reports quoted state government officials as saying that while one person died when a tree fell on him, another died on heart attack inside a cyclone shelter, and a woman died when flying debris from a concrete structure hit her.
A large number of trees and electricity poles were uprooted, and power supply was cut off in many parts of the state.
Many areas in Puri of Odisha and other places were submerged as heavy rain battered the coast.
Strong winds were seen in parts of the southern state Andhra Pradesh and eastern state West Bengal.
The cyclonic storm was said to be weakening gradually.
The Odisha government has evacuated more than one million people from the coastal areas to camps on higher grounds.
The Indian army, navy, air force, coast guard and disaster management agencies are on stand-by.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said more than 1,000 crore Indian Rupees (around 143 million dollars) had been released in advance for the states affected by the cyclone.