Dhaka, May 30 (PTI) At least six persons were killed as Cyclone Mora made landfall in Bangladesh today, packing winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour and damaging several houses, with authorities scrambling to evacuate over half a million people from the coastal areas.
In a special bulletin, Bangladesh Meteorological Department said the severe cyclonic storm Mora moved northward over North Bay and started crossing Coxs Bazar- Chittagong coast at 6:00 AM (local time). It is likely to move in a northerly direction further, it said.
A man and woman were killed after getting hit by a falling tree as the cyclone cut its path through the tourist district of Coxs Bazar, police said.
A child was killed in Bhola, one of the most vulnerable districts in the south. In Rangamati town, trees uprooted by the cyclone fell on a woman and a child, leaving them both dead, Police Inspector Mohammad Rashid said.
Separately, in the district town of Coxs Bazar, an elderly woman died from cardiac arrest at a cyclone shelter, local media reported.
Under the cyclones influence, gusty or squally wind with rain or thunder showers were continuing over North Bay and the coastal districts and maritime ports of Bangladesh, the Daily Star reported.
“Wind speed is estimated at 130 kmph in Saint Martins Island and 150 kmph Coxs Bazar port after it hit the area in between 6 AM and 7 AM,” Coxs Bazar Met official A K M Nazmul Haque said.
All flights were suspended to and from Chittagong international airport and the Coxs Bazar airports.
As many as 300,000 people had been taken to shelters in more than ten districts most vulnerable to the cyclone, Additional Secretary Golam Mostafa, a spokesman for the disaster management ministrys control room, was quoted as saying by BD News.
“The people were moved out to at least 400 cyclone shelters or safer places like schools and government offices in the coastal areas,” a disaster management ministry spokesman said.
There are also fears for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in makeshift homes after fleeing violence or persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.
At least 2.5 million people in 10 districts risk falling in the way of the severe cyclonic storm.
The districts at risk were Coxs Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Lakshmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barisal and Pirojpur.
However, the Met office has said that the cyclone has already started to lose strength, but strong winds and heavy rains in Coxs Bazar and Chittagong may continue.
Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader said that the government has disbursed cash assistance of 18.7 million taka for the affected areas. “A navy ship is on its way to the St. Martins Island with relief supplies. The prime minister has instructed the army and air force to join the relief efforts.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is monitoring the situation from Vienna, where she has gone to attend a conference on atomic energy.
“The prime minister is maintaining round-the-clock communication with Dhaka on the storm situation. She has ordered all-out preparation to tackle the storm,” said Ihsanul Karim, Prime Ministers press secretary.
Under the influence of the cyclonic storm, the low- lying areas of the coastal districts and their offshore islands were likely to be inundated by storm surge of 4-5 feet height above normal astronomical tide, the Met office said.
All fishing boats and trawlers over North Bay and deep sea have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.
The MeT office had issued the highest level of warning signal in a scale of 10 for two maritime ports after Mora developed into a severe cyclonic storm.
Habibur Rahman, a member of Saint Martins Island Union Parishad, told Bangladeshi daily Prothom Alo that several houses were damaged in Saint Martins Island in the morning.
Bangladesh is often hit by bad storms between April and December that cause deaths and widespread destruction.
Cyclone Roanu hit the southern coast of Bangladesh last year, leaving 20 people dead and forcing half a million to flee their homes.
The Mora cyclone formed after heavy rains in Sri Lanka caused floods and landslides killing over 180 people.