| Bangladesh evacuates 400,000 as cyclone hits
| Monday, May 25, 2009
|DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh on Monday evacuated hundreds of thousands of people to emergency shelters on the southwestern coast as a cyclone hit the country, as well as neighbouring India, officials said.
Government weather forecaster Sanaul Haq said Cyclone Aila made landfall between Bangladesh's Khulna district and Sagar Island in India's West Bengal state, unleashing a tidal surge as high as two metres (seven feet).
"It has already started hitting Bangladesh's coast, with a maximum wind speed of 90 kilometres (56 miles) per hour. We have reports that a tidal surge has inundated many coastal villages," the Bangladeshi official said.
In Khulna, which borders India, some 100,000 people had been moved to shelters as strong winds unleashed two-metre water surges, according to the district chief Ziaul Alam.
"A huge swathe of low-lying areas have already been submerged by brackish tidal water. The surge has already breached embankments in a number of villages along the coast," he told AFP by telephone after the cyclone hit.
"People who live in bamboo shacks have already taken shelter in their nearest cyclone shelter. We have also mobilised thousands of volunteers to prepare for the worst," Alam had said earlier.
The surge has flooded the town of Barguna, in the district of the same name, with other low-lying areas and islands in the vicinity also under water after levees overflowed, Barguna chief Swapan Kumar Sarker told AFP by phone.
"We have evacuated some 100,000 people to the district's cyclone shelters. Schools and colleges have been ordered to give shelter to the affected people," he said.
District chiefs in neighbouring Satkhira, Patuakhali and Bagerhat said that they evacuated another 230,000 people as tidal surge along with strong wind and heavy rains hit the coastal villages.
"Tidal water has entered Bagerhat town, submerging all the roads. We have reports that a five to seven feet surge has flooded scores of villages along the coastal rivers," said Khusru, who uses one name, a magistrate of the town.
"We are sending medical teams, charity workers to the affected areas with food and drinking water."
In November 2007, more than 3,500 people were killed when Cyclone Sidr hit the same districts, the second-strongest storm recorded in Bangladesh.
The low-lying country frequently experiences tropical storms and cyclones during the monsoon season. The first of the season made landfall last month causing little damage.
In 1970, some half a million people died when a cyclone hit the impoverished country, while an estimated 138,000 people died as a result of a cyclonic surge in 1991.
The lower death tolls in 1991 and 2007 were attributed to a network of cyclone shelters and a warning system introduced after the 1970 disaster.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 1:22 PM