Dhaka: Bangladesh on Friday evacuated over five lakh people from its southwestern districts as cyclonic storm 'Fani', brewing over the Bay of Bengal, is drawing closer and is likely to hit the country late night and cause severe damage after ravaging the Indian coastlines.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has classified 'Fani' as an "extremely severe cyclonic storm".
Met office spokesman Omar Faruque said the cyclone is likely to "enter Bangladesh through Khulna coastlines and will take the entire night to cross the country, ravaging southwestern" coastline districts.
Bangladesh skyline turned dark in many parts of the country since noon as 'Fani', dubbed to be the deadliest cyclone in decades to hit the region, started approaching, albeit with a weakened force, after ravaging India's eastern Odisha coastlines, weather officials said.
Faruque said the impact of the approaching cyclone caused downpour in some parts of the country and the intensity of the rainfall is expected to increase.
Disaster management ministry's senior secretary Shah Kamal told PTI that by afternoon, around 5,50,000 people were shifted from the coastline districts to shelters or other safer places.
"In most vulnerable areas like river shoals, we are trying to help people move out along with their valuables and cattle as well," he said.
The evacuees were being provided dry food, while "we have enough stock of relief materials for them", he added.
According to administrative officials, nearly two-third of people from vulnerable areas like Koira and Dakop in Khulna district, through where the cyclone was likely to penetrate Bangladesh, have been evacuated.
In a news briefing, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman said the government was fully prepared to face the cyclone.
"Army, navy, coastguards and other agencies are ready to be called out for disaster operation," he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is currently on an official trip to London, issued directives asking all public and private organisations to work in a well-coordinated way to face the cyclone.
"Work in a well-coordinated way to face the cyclonic storm 'Fani' and minimise the loss of lives and property," she said in a statement issued from London and urged people to remain prepared to face the natural disaster.
The government has also ordered all fishing boats and trawlers over North Bay and deep sea to remain in shelter till further notice.
Weather experts said the wrath of 'Fani' is likely to be lesser in Bangladesh coasts as compared to that of Odisha since the cyclone would lose its strength on its land routes, minimising risks of high number of casualties. However, it could damage standing crops and infrastructure on a vast landmass.
Besides, heavy rains, along with strong winds, will continue throughout Friday and Saturday in many parts of the country, they said.