Authorities in Bangladesh have so far evacuated about 100,000 people from its low-lying coastal villages and islands, according to officials, as the country braces for the arrival of a very severe Cyclone Bulbul.
The Meteorological Department has asked local authorities and two ports to raise their highest alert, as the cyclone is expected to unleash a storm surge as high as seven feet in coastal districts.
Bulbul, packing a maximum wind speed of 120 kilometres per hour, is on course to make landfall near the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, which straddles Bangladesh and part of eastern India and is home to the endangered Bengal tigers.
The cyclone is expected to hit the Bangladesh coast at around 8 pm local time, according to the disaster management secretary Shah Kamal, adding there are plans to evacuate some 1.5 million people before that.
Authorities have suspended a nationwide school test, cancelled the holidays of officials posted in coastal districts and called off a traditional fair that draws tens of thousands of people in the Sundarbans.
Operations at the country’s two major ports — Mongla and Chittagong — have been suspended, Kamal said.
Some 55,000 volunteers have been mobilised to go door to door and alert people about the storm.
Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, is regularly battered by powerful cyclones that leave a trail of devastation in their wake.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed over the last few decades in cyclones, whose frequency and intensity have increased.
Bangladesh has, however, improved its preparedness in recent years, cutting the number of casualties since Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people in 2007.