Cyclone Remal slams into Bangladesh coast as hundreds of thousands evacuate

At least 800,000 people evacuate their homes in low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh as intense cyclone makes landfall.

People gather along the seashore amid rainfall in Kuakata ahead of Cyclone Remal's landfall in Bangladesh [Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

Cyclone Remal has smashed into the low-lying coast of Bangladesh as authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, officials said.

The storm started crossing the coast in the southern district of Khepupara in Bangladesh at around 8pm (14:00 GMT), meteorologist Shamim Ahsan told a news briefing in Dhaka on Sunday.

The cyclone, named Remal, was lashing the coast with wind speed up to 120 kilometres per hour (75mph), he said.

Authorities have raised the danger signal to 10, its highest level, and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief’s Secretary Kamrul Hasan said people have been ordered to move from “unsafe and vulnerable” homes.

Cyclone Remal
Volunteers of the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) use a megaphone to alert people and ask them to evacuate as a preventive measure in Kuakata, Bangladesh [Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

At least 800,000 people have fled their coastal homes and have been shifted to cyclone shelters, government ministers and disaster officials said.

But as people fled, Bangladeshi police said that a heavily laden ferry carrying more than 50 passengers – double its capacity – was swamped and sank near Mongla, a port in the expected path of the storm.

“At least 13 people were injured and were taken to a hospital,” local police chief Mushfiqur Rahman Tushar told AFP.

Bangladesh has set up more than 7,000 cyclone shelters and mobilised 78,000 volunteers, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Mohibur Rahman told Reuters.

Cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in recent decades. In May last year, Cyclone Mocha became the most powerful storm to hit Bangladesh since Cyclone Sidr in November 2007. Sidr killed more than 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

The number of superstorms hitting its densely populated coast has increased sharply, from one a year to as many as three, due to the impact of climate change.

Commuters travel on a motorised three-wheeler along a road as rain clouds loom over the sky, due to the effect of Cyclone Remal, in Kolkata, India [Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP]

India’s weather department said it was expecting the storm to make landfall in India overnight.

India has deployed its disaster relief force in the eastern state of West Bengal and flights have been suspended at the major metropolitan city of Kolkata.

More than 50,000 people in India have already moved inland from the vast Sundarbans mangrove forest, where the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers meet the sea, government ministers and disaster officials said.

“We want to ensure that a single life is not lost,” said Bankim Chandra Hazra, a senior minister in India’s West Bengal state.

Parts of West Bengal have started experiencing bouts of moderate rainfall, and the government has cancelled leave for employees in essential services, a civic body official said.

The Indian Navy also said it had kept ships, aircraft, divers and medical supplies on standby for deployment if required.

Source: News Agencies