The Danger signal raised to 10!

( The Daily Star Report)

May hit southern coast by this noon; evacuation starts.

The Met office asked Mongla seaport to raise highest danger signal No. 10 while Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar No. nine yesterday evening as they feared a hurricane approaching Khulna-Barisal coast might hit the land this noon unless it changes course.

“The storm is likely to intensify further and move in a north-north-easterly direction,” a special bulletin of the Met office said last night.

It was moving at a speed of 18-km per hour in the direction of north and north-east, said the sources in Meteorological department.

The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) has already suspended loading and unloading of goods on the vessels at the outer anchorage due to blustery conditions.

Meanwhile, the authorities concerned have taken a number of precautionary and security measures to avert losses in the event of a lashing by the storm named SIDR.

“We think the hurricane will hit our coast Thursday noon (today),” Samarendra Karmakar, director of the Met office, told The Daily Star last night.

Originated from a depression over the southeast bay on November 12, it was roosting only 725 km southwest of Chittagong port, 645 km south-southwest of Cox’s Bazar and 670 km south of Mongla port, according to the Met office observation made at 12:15am.

As the storm kept picking up speed, the sea was becoming turbulent with the gale force winds blowing even harder. As of last observation, velocity of the hurricane at its core was 190-220 kmph.

The Met office has advised the district authorities to evacuate people living in the chars, and by the coastal zone. All fishing boats and trawlers on the northeast bay have been advised to come closer to the coast and take shelter immediately. Boatmen have been advised to proceed with caution till further notice.

A similar cyclone in 1991 claimed around 1.4 lakh lives and damaged properties worth about US$1,780 million.

Our correspondents report: The coastal districts including Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Bhola, Patuakhali and Barisal, Chandpur, Barguna, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands and chars have been experiencing gusty winds and rain since early yesterday.

The weather officials have cautioned that the low-lying areas of those districts might be inundated by wind-driven surge of 3 to 5 feet height above normal astronomical tide.

The district authorities have already had thousands of trained volunteers prepared for the situation.

Our Chittagong office adds: CPA has declared security alert No. 2 for areas in and around Chittagong port and suspended delivery from the mother vessels at the outer anchorage area and berthing of any vessels at the port jetties.

No vessel waiting for berthing was allowed to enter the port.

The vessels berthing at the port jetties were asked to leave for the outer anchorage immediately after unloading of goods. The authorities concerned have also sent 243 lighter vessels from the port channel to the upstream of the river Karnaphuli.

Two control rooms have been set up at the country’s premier port for round-the-clock monitoring of the situation. The district administration has opened 526 storm shelters and dispatched teams of Ansar and VDP to the coastal villages to guide locals to safety.

Our Barisal correspondent reports: Barisal river port authorities suspended operations of water vessels less than 65 feet in length on 28 inner routes of Barisal, 21 of Patuakhali, 13 of Barguna, 14 routes of Bhola and coastal services, and on five routes of Barisal-Bhola-Laxmipur-Chittagong.

Our Patuakhali correspondent adds: The masseurs are announcing warning through loud speakers to bring people to cyclone shelters. Hundreds of fishing trawlers were returning to shore while people were rushing to shelters at different points along the coast including Mohipur, Kuakata, Galachipa, Rangabali, and Sonar char.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme has stepped up its preparedness activities to respond to SIDR, the hurricane that has been forecast to hit the coastal areas today.

The WFP has emergency plans to distribute 98 metric tons of biscuits that can feed 400,000 people for at least three days.

“Considering the potential consequences, WFP and its partners have already started monitoring the situation in close partnership with the government,” said Douglas Broderick, WFP Representative in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, about 250 tourists including 30 women and children got stuck in St Martin’s Island as all kind of communications from the island were suspended from Tuesday following the cyclone alert.

However, some 70 tourists tried to reach Teknaf by a wooden trawler but the local union parishad chairman did not allow them to leave the island considering the risk.

The stranded tourists are staying in the 23 hotels and restaurants amid anxiety.

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