The Bangladesh government has already finalised its preparations and taken precautionary measures to address a possible disaster, should the impending cyclone Mahasen hit the country in the next few days.
At least 50,000 trained volunteers are on standby, disaster management Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali told reporters yesterday after a meeting of the inter-ministerial disaster management coordination committee held at the Secretariat.
However, the Met Office is yet to confirm when the cyclone may strike. They would be able to confirm this evening, officials said.
The minister said the government has taken precautionary measures to limit the loss of lives and assets in 322 flood and cyclone prone unions of 37 upazilas in 13 coastal districts.
“At least 3,770 shelters are now ready to protect cyclone-affected people. The government has also instructed the authorities concerned to prepare all primary schools in coastal areas to shelter affected people. Academic activities will remain suspended if needed,” he said, adding that risky cyclone shelters will not be used.
Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and disaster management and relief Secretary Mesbah Ul Alam attended the meeting among others.
Around 50,000 trained volunteers have been prepared and kept on alert. Deputy commissioners (DC), upazila nirbahi officers (UNO), union parishad chairmen and community leaders have also been instructed to stay prepared. Holidays for government officials in coastal areas have been cancelled.
The minister said: “We have allocated 5,000 tents and 7,000 saree and lungi as supplies in case of emergency. A total of taka 300,000 and 100 tonnes of food grains have also been allocated for every coastal district as support for the affected people.”
Regarding medical assistance, he said: “We have arranged one medical team for every union, two for every upazila and five teams for every district. More medical teams will be there in case of emergency.”
Commenting on monitoring, he said: “The National Disaster Response Coordination Cell will centrally monitor the overall situation during the cyclone. Separate control rooms have also been opened at the upazila- and district-levels.”
Director of Bangladesh Meteorological Department Md Shah Alam said: “We are yet to be sure when and where the cyclone will hit since it is still 1,080km away from the Chittagong seaport; 1,015km off Cox’s Bazar and 970km away from the Mongla seaport.
“It is now moving faster than yesterday [Monday]. If the cyclone continues to move at this speed, it will take time to hit the coast but it may change its speed soon,” he told reporters.
He forecasts that the cyclone might strike the coasts between Bangladesh and Myanmar border. “But, if it changes direction within a short time, it may hit either Chittagong or the Sundarbans areas.”
The official said the Met Office was tracking the cyclone and by today, they would be sure of its direction.
The minister said the government already hoisted precautionary signal number four for the people residing in the Chittagong and the Sundarbans areas. “We are contacting the fishermen, local community leaders and concerned authorities in the possible zones so that they get prepared to face any challenge.”
The volunteers are also sending message to the people of those areas, asking them to be prepared with dry foods and to shift to the cyclone shelters, he said.
The Met Office authorities on Monday advised maritime ports of Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Mongla to hoist local warning signal number four. The signal remains the same till now. “We will change the signal if needed,” Minister Mahmud Ali said.
The local people have been asked to call to the control rooms at 02-8818738, 02-9855933 and 01759114488, fax at 02-8819353.
Meanwhile, alert 2 has been issued at the Chittagong port after the Met Office asked the three maritime ports to hoist local warning signal number four.