Dhaka: Authorities in Bangladesh on Friday ordered the evacuation of about 18 lakh people from the low-lying coastal villages and islands as the country braced for a "very severe" cyclonic storm that is set to hit the country this evening.
Officials from the disaster management ministry said thousands of people have already been moved to safe shelters as the evacuation process was underway particularly in 10 southwestern coastal districts, which are likely to face the maximum brunt of Cyclone 'Bulbul'.
"By now 3 lakh people have been evacuated and we plan to move 18 lakh people to cyclone shelters by the evening in the vulnerable regions," disaster ministry secretary Shah Kamal told reporters.
He said army troops were called in to supplement the cyclone preparedness.
The latest met office bulletin said Bulbul was 280 kilometers southwest of Bangladesh's southwestern Mongla Port and 315 km southwest of Payra Port while it was moving in a north/northeastern direction.
It said the maximum sustained wind speed within 74 kms of the cyclone centre was about 130 kph which was rising to 150 kph in gusts/squalls.
"Maritime ports of Mongla and Payra have been advised to keep hoisted great danger signal no ten (the highest)," the bulletin read.
Under the influence of the storm and the moon phase, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Chattogram, Noakiiali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barishal,
Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands and chars are likely to be inundated by storm surge of 5-7 feet high above normal astronomical tide.
The Met Office said light to moderate rain or thunder showers accompanied by temporary gusty or squally wind is likely to occur at most places in Rajshahi, Dhaka, Khulna, Barishal and Chattogram divisions and at many places over Rangpur, Mymensingh and Sylhet divisions with moderately heavy to very heavy falls at places over the country.
Bangladesh's authorities earlier ordered a temporary ban on the movements of ferries and boats in internal river routes alongside all fishing boats and trawlers over northern part of the Bay of Bengal, where the storm originated initially in the form of low pressure.
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Enamur Rahman told a news briefing in Dhaka that "adequate measures" were taken to tackle the storm.
Rahman said some 56,000 volunteers were ready to provide help, particularly to evacuate people to safe shelters before the cyclone made the landfall while the local administrations were equipped with packs of dry food for the temporarily displaced people.