Cyclone ‘Mahasen’ approaching Bangladesh’s coasts travelled 120 kilometres in six hours on Wednesday and shifted more towards the north-northeast side.
Deputy Director Shamsuddin Ahmed for the Meterological Department’s Cyclone Prediction Center told bdnews24.com the cyclone may sweep through Khepupara-Teknaf Coast at dawn on Thursday.
Authorities on Wednesday morning asked for danger signal `7` to be hoisted on the Chittagong- Cox’s Bazar stretch.
In a Meteorological Department bulletin, coastal districts of Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Bhola, Borguna, Patuakhali, Barisal and their offshore islands were advised to hoist danger signal ‘7’.
Mongla port and coastal districts of Pirojpur, Jhalokathi, Bagherhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands were to raise danger signal ‘5’.
A 3pm special weather bulletin said Mahasen was located about 775 kilometres southwest of Chittagong port, 695 kilometres southwest of Cox’s Bazar port and 635 kilometres south southwest of Mongla port.
The storm is likely to intensify further and move in a north-north-westerly direction and may cross Khepupara-Teknaf coast near Chittagong early on Thursday, the bulletin said.
Low-lying areas of coastal districts of Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barisal, Pirojpur, Jhalokathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands and Chars (shoals) are expected to be hit by tidal waves up to seven feet high.
The storm is expected to pick up wind speeds up to 80 kilometres per hour, according to latest updates.
All fishing boats, trawlers and marine vessels over North Bay have been advised to dock at coast and avoid the sea until further notice.
Earlier on Tuesday, all speculations were laid to rest about ‘Mahasen’ and weathermen said it would strike Bangladesh coast.
In the past four days, the route of ‘Mahasen’ was uncertain.
But on Tuesday night, Bangladesh Meteorological Department official Shamsuddin Ahmed said the cyclone was headed towards the Teknaf coast.
Similar prediction was also made in BBC’s weather forecast.
The cyclone will cross the south-eastern coast of Bangladesh and Myanmar, accompanied by tidal waves of up to five metres high, rain and gusts, it had said.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States said the cyclone might sweep through Chittagong with wind speeds up to 129 kilometres per hour.
Already, the storm had reportedly left seven people dead and 3000 homeless in Sri Lanka.
A boat carrying about 100 Rohingya Muslims capsized off western Burma with many feared drowned at the start of a mass evacuation from low-lying regions ahead of Cyclone Mahasen, a UN official said on Tuesday.
The boat struck rocks off Pauktaw township in Arakan State and sank late on Monday, Barbara Manzi, head of the Burma office at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Reuters.
She said an unknown number of people were missing.
Meanwhile, all factories at the Chittagong Export Processing Zone (EPZ) were closed down until the storm wears off, Chittagong EPZ Authority (BEPZA) General Manager Abdur Rashid told bdnews24.com.
Authorities had also closed down Chittagong port and Cox’s Bazar airport in the afternoon. The Shah Amanat International Airport closed down at 4:00pm.
Authorities grounded water transport on 38 routes since 1:30pm,fearing the impact of‘Mahasen’, Barisal water-port official Mohammad Shahidullah told bdnews24.com on Wednesday.
All vessels of the port and 78 other harbours were grounded until further notice, he said.
Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Abul Hasan Mahmud Ali said all possible preparations have been taken ahead of the storm in 13 districts. Holidays for government officials have been cancelled.
The minister urged all to remain calm and be prepared ahead for the cyclone.
He said 49,365 volunteers were working to update people in the vulnerable areas.
“Currently there are 3,770 effective shelter homes available,” he said.
“If needed, primary schools will be closed and turned into shelter homes,” Mahmud Ali said.
All districts on the coast were supplied with additional Tk 300,000 and 100 metric tons of rice in advance to cope with post-cyclone impact. One medical team will be working in each Union along the coast.
Besides launching a control room, preparations have been made for evacuation, if necessary, said SM Abdul Quader, Chittagong Additional Deputy Commissioner and Convenor of a committee formed to handle the cyclone.
“Evacuation will take place once the danger signal rises. Forces will be used if necessary.”
About 100 tonnes of rice were sent to seven coastal Upazilas with Swandip receiving 20 tonnes alone, he said.
As many as 520 cyclone centres were ready with 283 medical teams. Several schools and colleges could be turned into makeshift cyclone shelters, officials said.