Thursday, November 15, 2007
A fierce cyclone that has whipped up tidal waves is wreaking havoc and destruction on Bangladesh’s southwestern coast today.
Homes have been wiped out and trees uprooted in what officials described as the worst storm in more than 15 years.
The eye of Cyclone Sidr, visible in satellite images as a colossal swirling white mass bearing north from the Bay of Bengal, hit land in an impoverished coastal area near Bangladesh’s border with India.
Samarendra Karmakar, the head of the Bangladeshi meteorological department, said the storm matched one in 1991 that triggered a tidal wave that killed an estimated 138,000 people.
However he added he was optimistic that, this time around, a major effort to evacuate villages and place people in special shelters could mean low-lying Bangladesh - one of the world’s poorest countries - would escape significant loss of life.
“The cyclone has battered Bangladeshi coastal areas. The velocity of the wind in that area is 220 to 240 kilometres (140 to 155 miles and hour),” he said.
“It is not less severe than the 1991 cyclone, in some places it is more severe. But we are expecting less casualties this time because the government took early measures. We alerted people to be evacuated early."
Bangladesh’s worst cyclone disaster was in 1970, when some half a million people died.
Officials in both Bangladesh and across the border in India have been evacuating hundreds of thousands of people from the area over the past 48 hours.
Mr Karmakar said rivers in the Sunderbans area, a vast mangrove forest straddling the India-Bangladesh border and the natural habitat of endangered Royal Bengal tigers, were also swelling fast as the storm moved north in the direction of the capital Dhaka....
From New Age Bangladesh
Very severe cyclone Sidr, packing a speed of 240kmph, on Thursday afternoon started pounding the southern coasts, especially the regions of Khulna and Barisal, according to the Meteorological Department of Bangladesh.
Fifteen southern districts — Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Noakhali, Chandpur, Feni, Barisal, Pirojpur, Lakshmipur, Jhalakati, Bhola, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bagerhat, Satkhira and Khulna — were likely to be affected.
Southern district administrations said the cyclone left a trail of destruction as it had lashed a number of places. The extent of damage could not be established till 11:00pm, but officials feared severe damage of lives, property and crops in the Barisal and Khulna regions.
The Patharghata upazila nirbahi officer in Barguna, M Selim, told New Age over telephone at about 10:00pm that the brick house he was in was shaking as the cyclone passed by. ‘I do not know what I will see tomorrow… I have never seen such a cyclone.’
Quoting harbour master at Mongla port, Lieutenant Commander Mohammad Shah Alam, the New Age correspondent in Khulna said the wind reached a velocity of 170km at night.
Reports of many houses being blown by the wind reached from Paikgachha and Mongla. Heavy rainfall and gusty winds were continuing.
The entire coastal belt plunged into darkness as power went off. Telecommunications between the coastal districts and other parts of the country were partially disrupted.
Tidal surges whipped by the storm were reaching up to eight feet high at 11:00pm. The eye of the storm was supposed to cross the coastal districts after midnight...