Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis fled to safety as cyclone Roanu on Saturday made a landfall at the country’s southern coast, with stormy winds and incessant downpour triggering landslides, killing 15 people and injuring over 100 others.
With a wind speed of up to kilometres per hour while heading east-northeastward, the cyclone hit the Barisal- Chittagong region, sending impacts across the country.
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Most places of the country witnessed rain and thunder showers accompanied by temporary gusty and squally wind since early morning.
At least 15 people were killed and over 100 injured as the advancing cyclone had started ravaging the southern coastlines, local media reported.
Officials and reports said that under the peripheral impact of the cyclone, codenamed Roanu, stormy winds levelled several hundred village huts in southwestern coastal Bhola leaving two dead and over 100 wounded indicating the cyclone was advancing with intensified wraths.
A minor child and a woman in Bhola appeared to be the first victims of the cyclone, which continued to advance keeping an edge with the coastlines from the southwesterly direction towards the southwest, turning the sea very rough.
Incessant downpour under the influence of the brewing cyclone caused landslides in southeastern port city of Chittagong, killing a minor girl and her mother. The fifth death was reported from southwestern Patuakhali.
Police officials said that six persons were killed in the cyclone in the upazila. Of them, four were killed in Khankhanabad union and the fifth in Sonua union. In Bhola, two persons were killed in a storm in Tajumaddin upazila of Bhola as cyclone Roanu is getting closer to the coastal areas.
In Patuakhali, over 300 families have been waterlogged as strong tidal waves caused the damn in Rangabali to break. Road communications have been disrupted after strong winds uprooted trees blocking highways, reports said.
The Shah Amanat International Airport, Chittagong suspended all of its flight operations due to Roanu.
Very to very heavy falls may occur at places over Dhaka, Khulna, Barisal, Chittagong and Sylhet divisions, according to a Met office bulletin issued in Dhaka.
Yesterday, the Met office issued a warning of 7 on a scale of 10 for three of the four main seaports.
Authorities earlier launched a massive evacuation campaign in southern coastlines mobilising rescue teams, saying thousands were moved to cyclone shelters already as they expected nearly 21,50,000 people in 13 most vulnerable coastal districts to be shifted to safety before the cyclone hit the coast with its full wrath.
“We have taken all the preparations to face the situation Roanu might cause,” Relief and Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya briefed reporters at Disaster Management Department today.
According to the bulletin issued in Dhaka, the doppler radar network found the cyclone to have advanced further in three hours towards north-eastward direction.
“It was centred at 09:00 AM (the 21st may 2016) about 140 kms southwest of Chittagong Port, 135 kms west of Cox’s Bazar port, 165 kms southeast of Mongla Port and 75 kms southeast of Payra Port,” the bulletin reads.
The cyclone was located at about 255 kms west-southwest of Chittagong, 230 kms off Cox’s Bazar, 190 kms off Mongla and 135 kms off Payra Port at 6 in the morning.
“It is likely to move in east-northeasterly direction further and may cross Barisal-Chittagong coast by noon/afternoon of 21st may 2016,” the latest bulletin reads.
The Met office late yesterday turned its “local warning signals” to “danger signals” for all its four seaports, asking ports of southwestern Mongla, Payra and southeastern Chittagong to hoist signal number 7 and southeastern Cox’s Bazar 6.
“The danger signals are applicable for 14 out of 18 coastal districts,” a meteorologist earlier told PTI.
An inter-ministerial meeting earlier scrapped yesterday’s and today’s weekend holidays for public employees in 18 coastal districts officials, saying “50,000 volunteers trained under the Cyclone Preparedness Programme and all Red Crescent volunteers and boy scouts were prepared to join the campaign”.
Bangladesh’s main port of Chittagong issued a “red alert” ordering ships to immediately leave the port and anchor in the outer anchorage for the safety of the facility. Authorities also ordered suspension of ferry services in the internal riverine networks as the weather turned rough in rivers too.
Officials in the coastlines said the entire coastal region witnessed light rains as the skyline remained gloomy since yesterday sending a signal for an impending danger.
“The people are exposed to danger, but most of them are unwilling to take refuge in shelters saying they were familiar with such warnings but the cyclones did not hit eventually,” Deputy Commissioner of southeastern Laxmipur Zillur Rahman said.
Bangladesh is vulnerable to cyclones because of its location at the triangular shaped head of the Bay of Bengal, the sea-level geography of its coastal area and its high population density while two deadliest cyclones occurred in 1970 and 1991 claiming some 5,00,000 and almost 1,40,000 lives respectively.
But during the past 20 years, the country managed to reduce deaths and injuries from cyclones while the most recent severe cyclone of 2007 caused 4234 deaths, a 100-fold reduction compared with the devastating 1970 cyclone, according to experts.