Hundreds of people living in five coastal upazilas of southeastern Cox’s Bazar district migrated to safer places, including cyclone shelters and structures on higher lands, on Wednesday as cyclone Mahasen reached within around 500 kilometres of Bangladesh coastline.
The Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong ports were asked to hoist danger signal No. 7 on Wednesday as the cyclone is expected to make landfall Wednesday night or early Thursday.
Meanwhile, the owners of the factories located in Chittagong EPZ (Export Processing Zone) started the evacuation process around 2:00pm, reported our correspondent quoting Abdur Rahsid, general manager of Chittagong Bepza.
Immediate after receiving a bulletin from the Met Office about hoisting the danger signal, local administration started evacuating people from the risky areas along the coastline of Cox’s Bazar as cyclone Mahasen approached within around 700 kilometres of Bangladesh shoreline.
All the schools and colleges in the coastal zones were declared closed, said sources in the Cox’s Bazaar district administration office.
The District Disaster Management Committee led by the Cox’s Bazaar Deputy Commissioner (DC) in an important meeting at around 12:00pm chalked out plans for facing the cyclone and for evacuating people from vulnerable areas.
After the meeting DC Md Ruhul Amin told the newsmen at a press briefing that they directed all administrative officers at upazila and union level and the non-government organisations engaged in the disaster management to evacuate people from the vulnerable areas within the daytime.
“As it is forecasted that the cyclone could cross the coast after the midnight or early Thursday, it will be difficult for us to shift people at the night,” said the DC adding that they started campaign in the disaster prone areas using loudspeakers about the cyclone since the morning.
“If needed, the administration will force the people living in the risky areas to leave their houses before the sun sets to avoid casualties,” the DC said adding that the law enforcement agencies were urged to take steps in this regard.
Allegations came that people do not want to leave their houses and properties even when their lives put on risk, the DC added.
A total of 534 emergency shelters have been prepared in the cyclone-prone district for the evacuated people, he added.
Sufficient relief materials including dry food, drinking water, saline and medicines have already been stocked in the shelters, he said.
Schools, hospitals and madrasas of the risky coastal areas will also be used as shelters.
The upazila nirbahi officers (UNO) of eight upazilas were asked to monitor the evacuation process, the DC added.
The DC said all the two-storied buildings owned by government and non-government organisations and schools and colleges have been declared as cyclone shelters to accommodate the people living in risky areas.
Contacted District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Md Abdul Mazid told The Daily Star that the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has already allotted 126 Mton of rice and Tk 6.17 lakh.
He said around 6,000 rescue activists of Red Crescent, Youth Red Crescent and Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) were engaged in shifting people from the coastal areas.
Meanwhile, schedule of all flights at Cox’s Bazar Airport was cancelled from 4.00pm following a direction came from the Civil Aviation Authority in Dhaka at 1:00pm, said Md Hasan Jahir, manager of the airport. A cargo plane of Bismillah Airlines left for Jessore around 10.00am.
The authorities also cancelled two flights of Novo Airways and regent Airways scheduled to land respectively at 1.00pm and 1.10pm from Dhaka.
While visiting some coastal localities under the Cox’s Bazaar Sadar upazila in the early morning the dwellers was found leading normal life as the weather was comparatively normal.
As the weather was behaving unusually normal compared to the previous cyclone periods they were dillydallying in shifting families for safer places.
Nur Alam, a middle-aged fish trader of Karwarpara of Khurushkul union around 4 kilometre from Cox’s Bazar town, was seen sitting on the district protection embankment at around 10:00am. Looking at the sky which was not fully cloudy, Alam expressed that he was confused about the direction and intensity of the cyclone.
Just after an hour the news about hoisting danger signal number seven came and Alam looked a bit worried and started for his village. Students from nearby schools were found leaving schools for houses as the educational institutes were declared closed at 11:30am.
As campaign by the district administration was intensified at noon, people from different villages including Samitypara, Samitybazar, Naziartek, Mostaikkyartek, Basinnyapara in Sadar upazila were rushing for safer places in the districts including Cox’s Bazar town, Ramu and Chakaria.
Sources and eyewitnesses said hundreds of people living in Kutubdia started leaving the island on boats and trawlers after hearing danger signal since 11:00am.
UNO Firoz Ahmed of Kutubdia upazila, said around 20,000 people from different vulnerable unions like Koyarbil, Lemsikhali, Uttar Dhurang and Ali Akbar Dail and Tabalarchar village were evacuated and shifted to the cyclone centres by 5:00pm.
UNO Anwarul Naser of Moheshkhali island said several thousand people from different unions like Dhalghata, Kalarmarchar, Kutubjhoom and Matarbari were already shifted.