Over 12,000 shelter prepared as evacuations set to start Tuesday
The very severe cyclonic storm Amphan in the Bay of Bengal have intensified into a super cyclone and is expected to hit the Bangladeshi coastline between late Tuesday and Wednesday evening, says the Met office.
Danger signal No. 7 has been advised for the coastal districts of Satkhira, Khulna, Bagherhat, Jhalokathi, Pirozpur, Borguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barisal, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni, Chittagong, and their offshore islands and chars.
The maritime ports of Mongla and Payra have been also advised the same alert while danger signal No. 6 has been advised for the ports in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar.
According to the special cyclone bulletin, the very severe cyclonic storm over west central Bay and adjoining area moved northwards and intensified to a super cyclone.
As of 9pm on Monday, it was centred about 1,020km south-southwest of Chittagong port, 960km south-southwest of Cox’s Bazar port, 920km south-southwest of Mongla port and 910km south-southwest of Payra port, it said.
Maximum sustained wind speed within 90 kms of the cyclone centre is about 225 km per hour, rising to 245 km per hour in gusts. Sea will remain very high near the centre, said the bulletin.
The cyclone is likely to move in a northerly direction and then recurve north-northeast wards and, crossing the Bangladesh coast between Khulna-Chittagong between late on Monday and Wednesday evening, according to the Met office.
The cyclone may cause low-lying areas of Satkhira, Khulna, Bagherhat, Jhalokathi, Pirozpur, Borguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barishal, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Noakhali,Feni, Chattogram and their offshore islands and chars to be inundated by storm surge of 4-5 feet height above normal astronomical tide.
The coastal region is likely to experience wind speeds up to up to 140 to 160 km per hour in gusts with heavy rain falls as the cyclone makes landfall, it said.
Bangladesh braces for Amphan
Over 12,000 cyclone shelters have been readied and the evacuation is expected to begin on Tuesday, said officials.
“The government has decided to evacuate the vulnerable coastal people to cyclone centres, starting from Tuesday morning, as cyclone Amphan is moving towards Bangladesh’s coastal areas,” State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman said on Monday.
Earlier in the day, a meeting of the Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) and National Disaster Response Coordination Group (NDRCG) – chaired by Dr Md Enamur Rahman – was held at the Bangladesh Secretariat to discuss the responses and action plans for cyclone Amphan.
It has been decided that people would be shifted to cyclone shelters from Tuesday morning, when volunteers will make announcements raising awareness .
As many as 12,780 cyclone shelters are being readied, which will be able to keep over 5 million people safe when Amphan hits the coast.
Pregnant women, women, the elderly, people with disabilities and children, will be given priority in moving to shelters, with males shifted later. Everyone has been advised to wear masks at the shelter.
The government has allocated 3,100 metric tons of rice, 42,000 packs of dried food, and Tk 50 Lakh for people in the shelters and Tk 31 lakh in aid for children.
Meanwhile, the Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) has opened a control room to provide information and help to city residents. The control room numbers are: 031-630739 and 031-633649.
Chittagong Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin said the corporation has taken all necessary steps to relocate people living in coastal areas.
To avert possible damage, all vessels anchored at the jetties of the Chittagong port are sent to outer anchorage for safe harbor and all types loading and offloading activities from the vessels remain suspended.
Besides, all equipment for handling containers and goods are moved to safer places and lighter vessels are sent upstream of Karnaphuli River for safe anchoring.
Omar Faruk, Secretary to Chittagong Port Authority said that all vessels anchored at the jetties of the port would be sent to outer anchorage for safe harbor with the high tide early Tuesday.
Chittagong’s District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Shojib Kumar Chakraborty told the Dhaka Tribune that some 4000 shelters were kept ready to evacuation.
Maintaining social distancing at shelters
The government is going to use various educational institutes in addition to regular shelters, so that more space is available to maintain social distancing.
Dr Enamur Rahman said: “We have 5,000 cyclone shelters in coastal districts, which we have increased to 12,780 by hiring schools to help ensure social distancing. They can hold about 2.1 million people and everyone will have to wear masks at the shelters.”
Echoing the minister on social distancing measures, Disaster Ministry Senior Secretary Shah Kamal said: “Each family group will be kept together and maintain distance from other family groups. We have also requisitioned educational institutes to use as shelters to ensure social distancing.”
Warning flag raised at Rohingya camps
Partners and volunteers at the Rohingya camps have raised the "First Flag" of warning.
Thousands of trained first responder volunteers from both the Rohingya and host communities are working to share key information with the communities and to prepare in case the cyclone makes landfall in Bangladesh, said the UNHCR.
Key partners including Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IOM Bangladesh and Rohingya Response ISCG Cox's Bazar, are working in close partnership with the national Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) of the government of Bangladesh.
‘Cyclone unlikely to affect crops’
The government also said the super cyclone Amphan is unlikely to affect crops very much, as 100% of Boro paddy has been harvested in the Haor areas, and 80% in other areas.
Agriculture Secretary Md Nasiruzzaman told the media that in some coastal areas 90%of the paddy has been harvested.
However, farmers in southern areas may face some losses. Barisal district has only managed to harvest 65% of its paddy, according to him.
India evacuates thousands
India began evacuating thousands of villagers and halted port operations ahead of a cyclone expected to hit its east coast this week, officials said on Monday, piling pressure on emergency services grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.
The cyclone, expected to make landfall on Wednesday, comes as India eases the world's longest lockdown, imposed in April against the virus, which has infected more than 96,169 people and killed 3,029.
The states of Odisha and West Bengal sent disaster management teams to move families from homes of mud and thatch to places of shelter from the severe cyclonic storm, Amphan, which is expected to gain strength in the next 12 hours.