Thursday, November 15, 2007

News report from Cox Bazaar - Bangladesh

Millions of people started leaving homes on the coastlines following Government advice yesterday evening, when the Met Office issued "great danger signal" No 10 for the southwestern Mongla Port and danger signal No 9 in a scale of 10 for the southeastern Chittagong and Cox's Bazar ports as the cylonic storm in the bay was moving fast towards the Bangladesh coast.

Hundreds of thousands of volunteers, aided by the local authorities and Bangladesh Red Crecsent Society, have been helping the people to go to safer places immediately after the Government ordered a massive evacuation.

As per the latest reports recived in the capital at 11:00 last night, the coastal areas were experinecing squally winds accompanied with drizzles from the evening, while panicky people were running for safer places.

Earlier, a senor official of the Ministry of Disaster Management said the deputy commissioners of 16 coastal districts were asked to take necessary steps, including evacuation in line with the previous standing orders for such a situation.Met Office said the cyclonic storm might hit land this morning.

Joint Secretary of Disaster Management Ministry Mohsina Ferdowsi told journalists that a central control room in Dhaka was in constant touch with local administrations in 16 coastal districts and the concerned agencies to monitor the situation while an emergency inter-ministerial meeting was convened for this morning to work out strategies for coordinating rescue and relief efforts.

She said as the Met office at 8:00pm issued the "danger signals" for the three maritime ports as the severe cyclonic storm 'SIDR' with hurricane strong winds at its core roared over the Bay of Bengal and was moving towards the northern shoreline.

An earlier Met office bulletin issued at 6:00pm said the cyclone was packing winds of 165 kilometre per hour (kmph) at its core and was rising to 185 kmph in gusts or squalls. The storm was 755 km southwest of Chittagong, 675km south-south west of Cox's Bazar port and 705 km south of Mongla port. Meteorologists said the cyclone could hit the coastline with full strengthen late today while its "peripheral winds" could brush the coast from midnight last whipping up surges three to five feet above the "normal astronomical tides".

Red Crescent's Cyclone Preparedness Centre Director M Nasirullah said more than 40,000 red crescent volunteers were asked to launch the evacuation drives in the coastline where the number of vulnerable people are nearly 1.20 crore.

"The volunteers are using sirens, loudspeakers and whistles urging people to move out of their homes and move towards safety," including cyclone shelters, Patuakhali correspondent of BSS said by telephone.

Similar reports were received from 13 other coastal districts where the residents and officials said they witnessed gloomy weather featured by drizzles and strong winds while the sea appeared very rough.

Officials in the port city of Chittagong said they already identified the most vulnerable areas in the district, which was experiencing a gloomy weather coupled with drizzles and squally winds since last night.

Reports from the other coastal districts said several hundred fishing boats took shelter in the coast while the authorities ordered temporary suspension of launch or ferry services on internal routes.

But local officials and fishermen's groups said despite the earlier warning signals, several hundred boats were yet to return to the coast since the "sea was not that much rough earlier".

Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Mongla ports' authorities asked the vessels at its berths to move away as soon as possible after completion of loading and unloading of cargo and suspended further sailing of vessels.

Our Chittagong Correspondent earlier reported that Chittagong Airport was closed and Chittagong Port stopped handling of cargo at outer anchorage of the Bay of Bengal from Wednesday morning.

At least 243 coaster vessels, which were waiting at the port navigation channel, were asked to leave for safer places, the report said quoting a port official.


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