High alert issued as 5 to 7 feet high tidal surge may hit coastal areas; heavy rainfall predicted; Bulbul may turn as deadly as Aila
The government has taken all out preparations, as very severe cyclonic storm "Bulbul" is likely to make landfall on the coastal districts of the country on Saturday night.
Five to seven feet high tidal surge may hit the low-lying areas of the coastal belt under the influence of the cyclonic storm after its potential landfall.
Worryingly, Bulbul’s, moving at 74kmph, sustained wind speed of 120kmph at its centre as recorded at 6pm Friday, according to Met office. The same as that of the 2009 Cyclone Aila.
Cyclone Alia on May 25, 2009 had ravaged 15 offshore districts of southwestern part of Bangladesh, killing 150 people and destroying 200,000 houses.
Making the forecast on Friday, Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) asked Mongla and Payra maritime ports to hoist danger signal No 7, and Chittagong port, danger signal No 6.
Ever since the danger signals were announced, all kinds of activities at the three sea ports have been suspended until further notice.
Cox’s Bazar Maritime port has been advised to keep hoisting local warning signal number four. All fishing boats and trawlers over the north Bay were advised to take shelter immediately and stay put till further notice as the sea will remain rough.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has banned the plying of all river vessels until further notice.
Coastal districts that may face the massive tidal surge include Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barisal, Pirozpur, Jhalokathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira, according to the Met office.
Moreover, the offshore islands and chars (dried-up riverbeds) are also at risk of being inundated, it said.
When contacted, BMD Meteorologist Hafizur Rahman said: “The cyclone may hit Bangladesh’s coastline sometime in the evening tomorrow [Saturday]. But we’re not sure about the tentative time of the landfall.
“As it is noticed, the impact of the cyclone has already started,” he said referring to rainfall in parts of the country, especially in the coastal districts.
Heavy rain continued in the coastal districts including Bhola, Patualkhali, Satkhira, Noakhali and Bagerhat since last morning as Bulbul started approaching Bangladesh.
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman on Friday said the government has taken adequate measures to face Bulbul.
“Necessary steps have taken to ensure that people and livestock in the coastal areas can safely move to cyclone shelters,” he told reporters.
Rahman said 14,000 packets of dry food, Tk70 lakh and 1,400 metric ton rice have been allocated for the people of Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola and Pirojpur districts.
Meanwhile, 600 metric tons of rice and Tk30 lakh have been allocated for the people of Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed residents of coastal districts to preserve necessary food and materials in 'Paribarik Silos' (family silo) provided by the government,” he concluded.
The Met office predicts that Bulbul, which was advancing at a wind speed of up to 120kmph last evening, may become weaker before the potential landfall along Bangladesh’s southern coasts including the Sundarbans. Bulbul was moving at a 74kmph pace on Thursday evening.
Meteorologist Abdul Mannan said Bulbul was approaching the north-east coast around 9 pm Friday, but may divert a bit to the right.
“Our observation says that the severe cyclonic storm may hit the coastline of Khulna and Barisal, possibly after Saturday evening,” he said.
According to him, Bubul may gain a wind speed of up to 144km/hour.
“But it may weaken before making landfall as its wind speed may hover between 100km to 110km/hour,” the Met official said.
Forecasting that the coastal areas will remain cloudy with drizzle or mild rainfall, he said: “Rain will intensify gradually with the cyclone fast approaching; the capital city maybe affected.”
The cyclonic storm over the west-central and adjoining east-central Bay moved northwestwards, intensifying into a severe cyclonic storm over the northwest and adjoining east-central Bay at 6am Friday.
It was centred about 620km southwest of Chittagong port, 585 km southwest of Cox’s Bazar port, 495 km southwest of Mongla port and 490 km southwest of Payraport at 12noon Friday, the Met office said at 6pm.
Bulbul is likely to intensify further and move in a north-northwesterly direction by this (Saturday) evening. Under the peripheral influence of the severe cyclonic storm “Bulbul”, gusty/squally weather may affect the maritime ports, North Bay and coastal areas of Bangladesh from early morning today.
The maximum sustained wind speed within 74 kms of the severe cyclone centre is about 120 kph rising to 140 kph in gusts or squalls. The sea will remain very high near the severe cyclone centre, the Met Office added.
2,521 cyclone centers prepared in 7 districts
The country’s southwestern coastal districts have taken all-out preparations and prepared 2,521 cyclone shelters as the severe cyclonic storm likely to make landfall early Sunday.
A total of 338 cyclone shelters were kept prepared, while hundreds of volunteers in the Dacope and Koyra upazilas were on alert to face any situation, Khulna district Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Azizul Haque Joarder said.
Bhola’s Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mohammad Masud Alam Siddique said 668 shelter centres, eight control rooms, 39 Mujib Kellas were made ready in the district, while 92 medical teams and 13,000 volunteers are prepared to face possible disaster.
Md Badiuzzaman, DC of Satkhira, said 137 shelter centers were prepared to tackle the situation while the volunteers were using loudspeakers requesting people of Shyamnagar, Ashashuni and Kaliganj upazilas to take shelter in safe areas.
Some 10 control rooms were opened in nine upazilas of Bagerhat, while 234 cyclone shelters were prepared as 2.26lakh people of the coastal areas can stay safe.
In Patuakhali, Barguna and Barisal 403, 509 and 232 cyclone shelters, respectively, were kept ready.
Ras Mela postponed in Bagerhat
Deputy Commissioner Mamunur Rashid said the district administration has decided to suspend the traditional ‘Rash Mela’ a religious festival of the Hindu community in Dublar Char in the Sundarbans for safety reasons, after the declaration of cautionary signal No. 4 at the Mongla port. This was also stated by Bagerhat DC Mamunur Rashid.
Ras Mela Celebration Committee General Secretary Pradeep Basu Shantu said: "Ras Mela takes place on the full-moon night of the Bangla months of Karthik or Agrahayan every year. The decision of postponing the celebration was made due to adverse weather conditions."
At an emergency meeting, the district's Disaster Management Committee decided that all kinds of permits to enter the Sundarbans will be suspended for the time being.
1,500 tourists stranded on Saint Martin’s
Around 1,500 tourists have been stranded on the Saint Martin’s Island as the vessel service from Teknaf and to the island was suspended due to high sea.
Moreover, some 1,000 people looking forward to make a trip to the island were also forced to cancel their journey, due to the suspension of vessel service on the Teknaf-Saint Martin route.
Airports, too, on alert
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has asked the airport officials across the country to stay alert to avoid any possible damage from Bulbul.
"Suspending operation at any airport is yet to decide," CAAB Member (Operations and Planning) Air Commodore Md Khalid Hossain told Bangla Tribune.
Hossain said that preparation has been taken in line with airport's standard operating procedure for a cyclone.
He said, "Officials at the airports across the country have been directed to take preparation yesterday [Thursday]. We are getting regular updates from them... Decision [to suspend operation at any airport] will taken after observing the weather situations.
“Adequate preparation has been taken at the airports in Chattogram, Cox’s Bazar and Barishal to face the risk. Machineries have been removed from airports' runway and open space [to avoid damage],” he added.
Our correspondents Md Hedait Hossain Molla, Khulna; Ahad Chowdhury Tuhin, Bhola; Rajib Bose, Patuakhali; Asaduzzaman Sarder, Satkhira; Ranajit Chandra Kuri, Noakhali; Anwar Hussain, Chitagong and SM Samsur Rahman, Bagerhat