Cyclone Bijli hits Bangladesh coast

Dhaka, April 18 (Inditop) Cyclone Bijli hit the Bangladeshi coast late Friday night, but the tropical storm had weaken slightly before reaching the southeastern shoreline, officials said.

A Bangladesh meteorological department statement said that the cyclone – with a wind speed of 90 km per hour – would take five to six hours to cross the coast.

Several thousand inhabitants of islands in the Bay of Bengal were already evacuated earlier Friday, ahead of the storm.

No initial reports of casualties were reported from the coastal districts, apart from destruction of a few thatched houses and damaged crops in the path of the cyclone.

The government earlier suspended all works at Bangladesh’s major Chittagong sea port, and Shah Amanat International Airport, the second largest airport in the country, as a precaution for the storm.

“We observe the cyclone was getting weaker gradually , and there is nothing to be panicked at this moment,” Bangladesh’s Food and Disaster Management Affairs Minister Abdur Razzak said after reviewing the situation at a meeting on disaster preparedness.

He added that the maritime ports must maintain the defensive stance adopted earlier to avoid loss of life and property.

Earlier Friday, the authorities evacuated several thousand residents of islands in the Bay of Bengal as the moderate-intensity cyclone was forecast to hit the Bangladeshi coast early Saturday.

“People from low-lying islands were brought to cyclone shelter centres Friday, and we have prepared to evacuate other costal residents to safer places if required,” said M.S. Akbar, chairman of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

More than 12,000 volunteers were engaged in cyclone preparedness work.

Heavy rainfall was recorded Friday in coastal districts, and the low-lying coastal areas of Chittagong, Noakhali, Feni, Laxmipur, Bhola, Barisal and Chandpur and their offshore islands were warned to expect water surge of two to three meters above normal tide.

Fishing boats and trawlers in the northern Bay of Bengal were ordered to take shelter, and the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority suspended river transport service.

Thousands of volunteers have been asking coastal residents to go to safer places, especially to cyclone shelter centres constructed after the devastation of the November 2007 Supercyclone Sidr, which killed more than 4,000 people.