DHAKA, May 20, 2020, Dhaka Tribune. Cyclone Amphan may hit coastal districts of Bangladesh by Wednesday evening, State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Enamur Rahman said on Tuesday, Dhaka Tribune reported.
Amphan, initially categorized as a super cyclone, was downgraded to an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” by Tuesday afternoon as it lost wind speed while advancing towards Bangladesh coast.
The cyclone has been projected to move in a north-north-easterly direction and cross the Bangladesh-India coast near the Sundarbans between the afternoon and the evening on Wednesday, according to the 9pm bulletin of Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD).
In a virtual press briefing on Tuesday evening, the state minister said the highest danger signal (signal no 10) would be shown at 6am Wednesday and no one will be able to go to cyclone shelters after the highest danger signal is raised, as there will be no volunteers outside to take them to the shelters.
“All the people have to be in shelters by 8pm [Tuesday]. Volunteers will help people to get in the shelters,” he added.
As of 9pm on Tuesday, the cyclone was located 740km southwest of Chittagong port, 695km southwest of Cox’s Bazar port, 615km south-southwest of Mongla port and 610km south-southwest of Payra port, the BMD bulletin said.
The maximum sustained wind speed within 85km of the cyclone centre is about 200km per hour (kph), rising to 220kph in gusts and squalls.
All fishing boats and trawlers over the North Bay and deep sea have been advised to take shelter immediately and will remain in shelter till further notice.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has allotted Tk50 lakh in cash, Tk31 lakh for baby food, Tk2.8 lakh for dairy feed, 3,100 tons of rice and 42,000 packets of biscuits as assistance for 19 districts. All of them are coastal districts except Faridpur, Madaripur, Feni, and Sariatpur.
Amphan downgraded to extremely severe cyclone
Cyclone Amphan was originally categorized as a super cyclone, with Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMP) bulletins Tuesday morning and in the afternoon saying the wind speed within 90km of the centre of the storm was 225kph, rising to 245kph in gusts and squalls.
However, BMD bulletins posted at 3pm said the wind speed had dropped as the cyclone made its approach. Speeds of 200kph recorded within 85km of the centre of the storm, rising to 220kph in gusts and squalls.
As a result, Amphan was downgraded into an extremely severe cyclonic storm.
On Monday night, Cyclone Amphan became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal, with sustained wind speeds up to 270kph, according to data from the US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.
12,078 cyclone shelters to hold over 2 million people while maintaining health rules
State minister Dr Enamur Rahman said 12,078 cyclone shelters have been readied to hold over 2 million people while maintaining health guidelines and social distancing. The armed forces are helping to bring people from remote areas and chars to shelters.
Everyone at the shelters will have to wear protective masks and maintain 1m distance between each other.
“We have the capacity to accommodate 5.1 million people in the shelters. We brought 1.8 million people inside shelters during Cyclone Fani and 2.2 million during Cyclone Bulbul,” he added.
A total of 5,000 shelters were available in coastal districts, but the government increased the number to 12,078 by using schools as shelters in order to facilitate social distancing.
14 districts under threat of high storm surges
Under the influence of the very severe cyclonic storm Amphan and the new moon, low-lying areas in the coastal districts of Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barisal, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni, Chittagong and their offshore islands and chars are likely to be inundated by storm surges.
The storm surges are expected to be 5-10 feet higher than the normal astronomical tide.
Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Jhalokathi, Pirojpur, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barisal, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni, Chittagong and their offshore islands and chars are likely to experience wind speeds up to 140-160kph in gusts and squalls, with heavy to very heavy rainfall during the passage of the storm.
Bangladesh has suspended all river transport services across the country as Cyclone Amphan moves closer to the coastline.
According to BIWTC sources, all river transport, including ferry crossings, were halted from 1pm Tuesday. All vessels are to remain docked until further notice.
“The Water Transport Ministry told me that all water vessels have been secured,” State Minister Dr Enamur Rahman said.
Chittagong Port sources also said all vessels had been secured at the port, and all loading and unloading have been suspended. Only container transport from the port was open at the time of filing this report.
Similar measures have been taken by the Mongla Port Authority.
Coastal districts preparing to minimize damage
District administrations, the Mongla Port Authority (MPA), Civil Surgeon offices and Red Crescent Society have taken up massive preparations to cope with the cyclonic storm in the coastal belts of Chandpur, Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Bhola, and Barguna districts.
All deputy commissioners and district relief and disaster management committees in coastal districts held emergency virtual meetings on evacuation and pre and post-cyclone plans of actions, correspondents report.
The meetings decided to keep medical teams on standby with adequate relief materials, including drinking water and dry foods, while strictly maintaining social distancing at all shelters throughout. Steps were taken so that people and their livestock near coastal areas could be safely shifted to the shelters.
All government officials, employees, doctors and nurses have been asked to remain on standby at their respective stations, cancelling holidays, to face any eventuality due to the cyclonic storm.
In Khulna, a total of 608 cyclone shelter centres were opened in all coastal upazilas of the district, where over 240,000 people were to be evacuated.
Coastal people had already started moving to the cyclone shelters from Tuesday afternoon, while maintaining social distancing and health guidelines, said deputy commissioner Md Helal Hossain.
District Relief and Disaster Management Officer Md Azizul Islam Zowardar said around 2,460 volunteers, including members of Red Crescent Society, and 116 medical teams had been prepared to cope with the upcoming disasters. Announcements through loudspeakers about the cyclone began Monday morning.
Safe drinking water and dried food has been sent, and 200 tons rice and Tk7 lakh in cash are ready for distribution in coastal upazilas of the district. Control rooms have been opened at all upazilas, he added.
In Satkhira, a total of 147 cyclone shelters, including 1,796 primary schools, colleges and madrasas, have been prepared at all coastal upazilas of the district. In addition to safe drinking water and dried food, 250 tons rice and Tk12 lakh in cash are ready for distribution in coastal upazilas of the district.
In Bagerhat, a total of 345 cyclone shelter centres have been prepared, with around 11,708 volunteers, including members of Red Crescent Society, and 84 medical teams prepared to cope with the upcoming disaster.
In Barguna, a total of 609 cyclone shelters have been prepared, while 200 tons rice and Tk25 lakh are ready for distribution and over 80,000 people will be evacuated.
In Chandpur, 18 unions under three coastal upazilas have been alerted. All cyclone shelters have also been kept ready, reports our Chandpur correspondent.
At the same time, volunteer teams, medical teams, police, fire service, and rover scouts have been kept ready at every union of the district.
In Bhola, the district administration has opened 1,100 cyclone shelters and formed 92 medical teams.
Apart from raising awareness, the district administration is now working to evacuate some 400,000 char people to safety, our Bhola correspondent reports.
Members of the navy, river police, district police and coast guards will assist people to reach the cyclone shelters safely.
Our correspondents Md Hedait Hossain Molla, Khulna, Asaduzzaman Sardar, Satkhira, SM Shamsur Rahman, Bagerhat, Ibrahim Rony, Chandpur, Ahad Chowdhury Tuhin, Bhola and Anisur Rahman Swapan, Barisal contributed to this report