The country braces for cyclone Mahasen after it approached within around 1,000 kilometres of the coastline yesterday.
Met officials say the cyclone is shifting its direction continuously and is likely to cross the country tonight or tomorrow. It remains still sometimes.
However, the government is fully prepared for a possible cyclone impact, Disaster Management Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said during a press conference at his office yesterday.
“Our cyclone preparedness programme has 49,365 trained volunteers in 13 coastal districts,” he said, adding they were delivering warning messages to the people over loudspeakers.
“There is no need to panic.”
At present, the country has 3,770 shelters while at least 5,200 are necessary, the minister said. If needed, all primary schools will be used as cyclone centres.
Holidays have been cancelled for all public officers and employees in all of the coastal districts — Khulna, Barisal, Barguna, Bagerhat, Bhola, Patuakhali, Satkhira, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Noakhali, Feni, Pirojpur and Jhalakathi.
Medical response teams — one in every union, two in every upazila and five in every district headquarters in the coastal belt — are ready for emergency relief operations, the minister added.
Six community radio stations are informing people about Mahasen, which formed on Saturday in the Bay, around 1,700km away from the coastline. The stations are keeping contact with district disaster monitoring cells and volunteers round-the-clock.
Fishermen in the Sundarbans and the Bay of Bengal have been asked to move to safety while workers of all vulnerable camps in the forest have been ordered to evacuate.
The water level of the rivers and the sea has risen up to five to six feet amid squally winds.
The Chittagong City Corporation has declared eight of its wards vulnerable to what could be a disaster. They are: North Kattali (ward-10), South Kattali (11), North Halishahar (26), Munir Nagar (37), Middle Halishahar (38), South Halishahar (39), North Patenga (40) and South Patenga (41).
According to the met office bulletin 19, the cyclone was 970km from Mongla, 1,080km from Chittagong and 1,015km from Cox’s Bazar at around 9:00pm yesterday.
“The cyclone is continuously shifting its directions. Now it is moving northwards; it will come to the Bangladesh coast if it moves northeast,” said the duty forecasting officer of Dhaka met office last evening.
Later, bulletin 21 issued early today spoke of the cyclonic storm over the west central Bay and adjoining east central Bay moved slightly north-northeastwards over the same area.
It was centred at midnight last night about 1,040km southwest of Chittagong, 975km of Cox’s Bazar and 930km of Mongla ports.
The cyclone is likely to intensify further and move in a north-northeasterly direction.
Maritime ports of Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Mongla have been advised to keep hoisted local warning signal number four.
However, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in a statement said Mahasen would gradually be weak and cross the coastline of Chittagong tomorrow.