Dhaka: Bangladesh on Monday evacuated hundreds of thousands of people to emergency shelters on the southwestern coast as a cyclone hit the country, an official said.
Government weather forecaster Sanaul Haq said Cyclone Aila made landfall between Bangladesh’s Khulna district and Sagar Island in India’s West Bengal, 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 90km (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.
“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 said.
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, said Barguna chief Swapan Kumar Sarker.
“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 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.