Bangladesh issues highest danger signal as Amphan nears coast

Bangladesh has issued this morning the highest “danger signal” on the scale for tropical cyclone for the southwestern coastlines under the purview of Mongla and Paira ports amid a desperate evacuation campaign as the first super cyclone in decades Amphan neared the coast.

“Maritime ports of Mongla and Payra have been advised to lower danger signal number seven but instead hoist great danger signal number ten (R) Ten,” the meteorology department said in an early morning bulletin.

The bulletin added that coastal districts of Satkhira, Khulna, Bagherhat, Jhalokathi, Pirozpur, Borguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barishal, Laxmipur, Chandpur and their offshore islands and shoals would come under great danger signal number 10.

The disaster management ministry control room meanwhile reported that against a target of evacuating over 2 million people, more than 5 lakh could be moved overnight to cyclone shelter whi efforts were still underway to take the vulnerable ones to safety.

The met office said the cyclone was it is likely to move in a north- northeasterly direction and may cross west Bengal-Bangladesh coast near the Sundarbans during afternoon/evening 20 may 2020.

“Maximum sustained wind speed within 85 kms of the cyclone centre is about 200 kph rising to 220 kph in gusts/ squalls. sea will remain very high near the cyclone centre,” the report said.

Maritime ports of Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar have been advised to keep hoisted danger signal nubmer six while Noakhali, Feni, Chattogram And Cox’s Bazar and their offshore islands and chars would come under danger signal number six.

In a subsequent statement, the Indian met office said Amphan remained as an extremely severecyclonic storm overnorthwest bay of bengal near lat. 19.80°n and long. 87.70°e.

“Current intensity near center 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph,” it read.

Global storm tracker AccuWeather in its latest report said Amphan remained an “extremely dangerous storm” as it continued to track toward northeastern India and southern Bangladesh coasts as the highest tropical cyclone to make a landfall later today.

“This cyclone is forecast to make landfall on Wednesday night, local time, near the border of India’s West Bengal state and Bangladesh,” the AccuWeather reported adding that as previously predicted the storm lost some of its intensity but still proceeding with massive rage.

The weather agency said until Tuesday evening Amphan had maximum sustained winds of 213 km/h (132 mph), the equivalent of a strong Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic or East Pacific Oceans.

AccuWeather remained to its previous prediction that Amphan’s path would lead it directly to India’s West Bengal capital Kolkata after ravaging Bangladesh and Indian coastlines.

The US-based weather foresters’ analysis largely appeared identical to Bangladeshi and Indian met office predictions while both the countries were carrying out a last hour massive evacuation campaign to minimize fatalities.

Officials in both the countries said they were trying to follow social distancing measures in place for the COVID-19 crisis while relocating millions of people to makeshift cyclone shelters.

Bangladesh authorities earlier set a target of evacuating over two million to safety readying 12,078 cyclone shelter centres but officials said over three lakh people coud be move to safety overnight.

State minister for disaster management Dr Enamur Rahman late yesterday in a briefing said the evacuation should be competed overnight as it could be difficult to move out people today as the killer storm continued to approach.

Repots from the low lying coastlines, however, said officials and volunteers were struggling to motivate people to move to safety as many were found unwilling to take refuge in shelters leaving valuables and cattle unprotected at their homestead.

Officials said arrangements were made for the cattle as well along the cyclone shelters, where people could stay maintaining physical distancing as part of COVID-19 precautions.

Rahman said as part of all-out preparations the health ministry also took measures to provide treatment facilities for the coastal people readying medical teams with necessary medicines to this end.

The junior minister said ad army and navy troops were also engaed to assist the local administrations in bringing the vulnerable coastal people to safe places as they were already at the scene on COVID-19 duty.“All big ships were taken to safe areas to avoid damage,” he said.

He said there are 12,078 cyclone shelter centres in the coastal districts, which have the capacity of accommodating around 52 lakh people during any disaster.

“But, only 20 to 22 lakh people will be accommodated in these shelter centres to maintain social distancing due to coronavirus fear.

The authorities concerned have been asked to ensure one metre distancing in bringing people to the cyclone centres,” Rahman said.