| Millions to evacuate as cyclone slams into Bangladesh
| Thursday, November 15, 2007
|DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- A powerful cyclone battered the coast of Bangladesh on Thursday with strong winds, surging waves and heavy rain, forcing hundreds of thousands of villagers in the low-lying nation to seek shelter.
With maximum sustained winds of 149 mph (240 kilometers per hour), Tropical Cyclone Sidr swept in from the Bay of Bengal, buffeting southwestern coastal areas within a 155-mile (250-kilometer) radius of the storm's eye.
No damage or casualties were immediately reported, but rescue teams were on standby at a nearby forest office, forest official Mozharul Islam said in Khulna.
Some 3.2 million people were expected to be evacuated in all, Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official, told reporters in Dhaka. "We have taken all precautions," he said. Watch rush to evacuate as Sidr approaches »
Communications with remote forest areas and offshore islands were temporarily cut off.
At least 620,000 people had moved into official shelters, where they were being given emergency rations, Majumber said.
The eye of the cyclone was expected to make landfall later Thursday, about 85 miles southwest of Dhaka, the capital, said Shahjahan Alam, a Bangladesh Meteorological Department official.
Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation, is prone to seasonal cyclones and floods that cause huge losses of life and property. The coastal area bordering eastern India is famous for the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, a world heritage site that is home to rare Royal Bengal Tigers.
Officials feared storm surges of as much as 20 feet could submerge low-lying areas.
The cyclone also triggered cold drizzles and high winds across the country.
The Meteorological Department had put the country's three major maritime ports -- Chittagong, Mongla and Cox's Bazar -- on the highest level of alert.
Ferry service and flights were halted across the coastal region.
Ships were warned to return to shore. Volunteers helped evacuate villagers to cyclone shelters, built of concrete on raised pilings. Some took refuge in "mud forts" built along the coast to resist tidal surges.
Schools, mosques and other public buildings were also turned into makeshift shelters.
Many of the fishing boats in the region's coastal waters put down anchor at nearby shoals and islets that dot the South Asian country's shoreline.
The sea resort of Cox's Bazar was deserted after Wednesday's warning. Dozens of tourists were stranded in the offshore coral atoll of St. Martins as rough seas forced cruise boats and ships to stay ashore.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 6:25 PM