Cyclone Mahasen on Thursday struck a mild blow to the coastal region in the south-east and south western parts of the country, weakened and crossed over to Myanmar. In sporadic incidents of house collapse, falling trees and boat capsize, upto 36 people were killed. Twentyone of them alone were killed in boat capsize in Teknaf while eight in Barguna, three in Bhola, two in Patuakhali and one each in Pirojpur and Chittagong. Some of the victims died as trees fell on them while they were heading for the cyclone shelters, eyewitnesses said.
The deceased who have been identified are Syed Ali, 75, Abir, 6, Chan Mia, 65, Anwar Hossain, 60, Mosharraf, 57 and Nadira, 26, of Barguna, Kashem, 65, Rafiqul Islam, 65, and Parvez Pal, 5, of Bhola and Siraj Akanda, 60, and Rizia Parvin of Patuakhali district.
In Teknaf, the bodies of the 21 people were recovered from the coast stretching from Sabrang to Baharchhara. The victims may be Myanmar nationals as a boat carrying about 200 Rohingya Muslims capsized off the Pauktaw township in Rakhine State on Monday, official said.
Apart from the deaths, the storm caused considerable damage to homes and crops on a vast swath of land across the entire coastal region of southern Bangladesh, according to eyewitness accounts and reports from the Independent correspondents.
Cyclone Mahasen first struck Khepupara upazila under the southern district of Patuakhali around 8:00am Thursday with an average wind speed of about 100 kph and then headed for Noakhali and Chittagong coasts, officials of Met Office said.
Soon after the storm even though somewhat already weakened began lashing other districts of the coastal region including Barguna, Pirojpur, Barisal, Bhola, Feni, Chittagong, and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar, officials and local people said.
As the storm passed over Bangladesh, officials of the Meteorological Department withdrew the danger signal in the coastal areas on Thursday afternoon and normalcy began to return in the affected areas. Flight operations will resume on Friday at Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar airports.
Mahasen came with high wind and heavy downpour which was also experienced in the capital city, some 250 km from the coast. Met office recorded 232 mm rain at Khepupara, 122mm at Patuakhali, 95mm at Barisal, 78mm at Bhola, 75mm at Feni, 54mm at Hatia, 37mm in Chittagong and 17mm in Cox’s Bazar.
Earlier, about a million people living in the coastal belt of the country were evacuated to hundreds of cyclone shelters. Many people also took shelter at local schools, colleges and other safer places as the cyclone began to approach the coastline of Bangladesh.
At least 200 people remained stranded onn Sonadia Island as the storm hit the coastal area of Maheshkhali in Cox’s bazar. “We tried our best to bring them to safe places but failed for the storm,” Abdul Qaium, an official of the Environmental Department and marine biologist said.
“A team of Red Crescent Society is now working there and dry food and water are being supplied for them through the local Union Parisad,” Maheshkhali Upazila Nirbahi Officer Anwarul Naser and Red Crescent Deputy Director Mamunar Rashid said.
Thousands of huts in 42 unions of the Patuakhali district were damaged in the storm as trees fell on many of them. Sources said thousands of acres of cropland were also inundated completely. The district administration allocated four lakh taka and 6,000 kilograms of rice for the affected families.
The storm also caused widespread damage to crops in the low-lying areas of Kotalipara and Tungipara upazilas of Gopalganj district. Officials said 12,000 hectares of rice crops were completely inundated by tidal wave and rain waters of the two upazilas.
In Barisal, the situation is gradually becoming normal and many of some 200,000 people who took overnight refuge at various cyclone shelters already started returning home, Barisal Divisional Commissioner Mohammad Nurul Amin told state-run BSS news agency.
He said the worst hit areas of the south-western region were Manpura and Char Fashion islands of Bhola, Rangabali of Patuakhali, Patharghata of Barguna where hundreds of thatched houses and standing crops damaged and a large number of trees were uprooted.
The cyclonic storm also hit heavily at the remote areas of Char Nizam, Char Kukrimukri, Char Fashion of Bhola district where hundreds of houses were completely destroyed, Deputy Commissioner of Bhola Khandaker Mostafizur Rahman said.
“Some 5,000 persons were stranded at Char Nizam, 25 km inside the Bay of Bengal, and all communications with that island were snapped”, he said adding that no tidal surge eventually hit the area as feared.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated to safety as a cyclone brewed earlier in the Bay of Bengal approached Bangladesh coastlines with met office director Shah Alam saying “we earlier said the Mahasen could hit the coastline in the morning, but now we expect it to arrive by the midday as its speed has been slowed down”.
The evacuation campaign was launched last night as the met office issued Danger Signal no 7 on a scale of 10 for north-eastern coastlines while authorities said armed forces were kept prepared with troops, ships and helicopters to launch rescue operations when the cyclonic storm hit the coast.
Witnesses said rain-soaked people who earlier preferred to stay at home until the last minute were taking refuge in cyclone shelters as the sea turned very rough while the storm with an estimated central pressure of 990 hpa also inflated waters in the confluences.
Red Crescent volunteers used megaphones asking people to move out of their homes with their valuables and keeping behind their other necessary belongings digging out the earth at their homesteads to be protected from tidal surges.
Authorities earlier declared the services of the government employees at the coastlines temporarily essential for rescue and relief campaigns while community radio services were activated in many areas so they could work as the communication channels with rescuers.
The community radio services were launched in the coastlines on a large scale after the deadly Sidr hit the south-western coastline in 2007 that left 3,363 people dead and the subsequent Aila cyclone in 2009 claimed 190 lives.
The authorities yesterday closed temporarily the country’s two seaports in Chittagong and Mongla as well as airports in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong while Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) also ordered small boats and vessels to be stationed in safety in the face of the impending danger.
The disaster management department director general Abdul Wajed earlier told BSS the people whose households were exposed to tidal surges above 7 feet above the normal tide were prioritized for the evacuation and were being sheltered at 3,770 permanent cyclone shelters.
An armed forces division spokesman said alongside the army troops, navy kept ready 22 of their ships and the air force their 19 helicopters and four transport planes to launch the rescue campaigns alongside the civil administration.
“We have provided the air force 20,000 special parachutes to drop packs of emergency food, each weighing seven and half kilograms, in places where the helicopters could not land,” Wajed said.
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society’s international affairs director Nazmul Azam Khan said their 49,365 volunteers launched the evacuation campaign at the 13 districts using megaphones also issuing directives how they should come out of their homes.
“The trained volunteers are equipped with megaphones, torches, medical kits and other required equipment for facing the pre and post cyclone phases,” he said.
The National Health Crisis Management Centre and control room of the health directorate said 1327 government medical teams were mobilized at the coastlines with maximum 283 in Chittagong.
A communication ministry spokesman said they opened two control rooms to monitor the road communication systems in the coastal areas sending emergency teams to quickly repair platoon, gangways and ferries alongside roads which would be damaged by the cyclone.
Earlier on Wednesday, all airports, seaports and educational institutions in the regions have been shut after the maritime ports of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar were advised to hoist danger signal number seven. Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) suspended the operation of vessels and ferries on long routes till further notice.
Meanwhile, all activities at the Chittagong Seaport were suspended following the issuance of the danger signal number 7. All ships staying at the main jetty and mooring moved away to the outer anchorage for safety. Chittagong and Karnaphuli EPZs were declared closed for an indefinite period.
Important equipment was shifted from the local bases of Bangladesh Air Force and Bangladesh Navy to avoid possible destruction. Besides, the bogies and wagons of trains were taken to safer places from different railway stations. The government took allout measures to shield possible loss of lives and property from the cyclone. Some 2,968 permanent and temporary shelter centres were ready in the coastal districts for the locals.
Source: The Independent