A severe cyclonic storm, Mora, was formed over the north and adjoining east central Bay of Bengal on Sunday, which was expected to hit Bangladesh coast this morning, the Dhaka Met office said.
The Met office in a special cyclone bulletin asked Chittagong and Cox's Bazar ports to hoist great danger signal number 10 and Mongla and Payra ports danger signal number eight.
Till yesterday afternoon, the Met office classified the storm as a medium scale adverse event. However, the storm intensified further and gathered strength by evening and the office reclassified it as a severe cyclonic storm.
Some coastal areas in the country were experiencing thunderstorms with heavy rain since yesterday afternoon.
According to the special bulletin, the cyclone was centered around 280 km south of Cox's Bazar port, 360 km south of Chittagong port, 430 km south-southeast of Mongla port and 350 km south-southeast of Payra port at 9:00pm yesterday.
The wind speed in the eye of the cyclone was between 89 km and 117 km per hour. The storm might bring a tidal surge of over five feet to the coast, said a duty forecasting officer at the Met office.
Under the influence of Mora, the low-lying areas of Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali, Barisal, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands and chars are likely to be inundated by storm surges of 4-5 feet height.
Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, and their offshore islands and chars will come under the great danger signal number 10.
Bhola, Barguna, Patuakhali, Barisal, Pirojpur, Jhalakathi, Bagerhat, Khulna, Satkhira and their offshore islands and chars will come under the danger signal number eight.
Officials at the Dhaka Met office said this was the first time the great danger signal number 10 was hoisted at maritime ports since the cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh in November 2007.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) suspended launch services on all routes across the country from Dhaka.
Launch services remained suspended since 2:00pm yesterday, Joynal Abedin, joint director of BIWTA, told The Daily Star.
The district administrations concerned took precautionary measures to reduce damages in the event of a cyclone.
The authorities evacuated thousands of people from the coastal areas in Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni and their offshore islands as the districts might be worst affected.
In Cox's Bazar, the authorities made announcements through loudspeakers since morning, asking people to move to cyclone shelters and other safer places.
The Met office asked all fishing boats and trawlers at the north-Bay and deep sea to stay in shelters until further notice.
CTG PORT SUSPENDS OPERATIONS
The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) suspended port operations around 6:00pm yesterday.
CPA Secretary Omar Faruq said loading and unloading of goods from the vessels anchored at the port jetties and the outer anchorage were suspended around noon.
The CPA put the port on its own highest security alert (alert No-4) after the Met office asked the maritime ports of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar to hoist great danger signal number seven, he told The Daily Star.
Besides, loading and unloading of bulk goods and containers from vessels both at the port jetties and at the outer anchorage were suspended by around noon.
All the 24 vessels berthed at the port jetties were repositioned to the outer anchorage. With the 24, a total of 100 vessels were at the outer anchorage in the evening, Faruq added.
Wing Commander Rezaul Kabir, airport manager at Chittagong Shah Amanat International Airport, said flight operations at the airport would remain suspended from 5:45am to 2:00pm today.
The government has taken all out measures to provide support to the affected people in the event of a cyclone.
The district administrations held meetings yesterday afternoon and took necessary measures to deal with the possible disasters.
In a meeting, Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Zillur Rahman Chowdhury said a total of 479 cyclone shelters in the city and coastal upazilas were opened since morning. The shelters can accommodate 4,45,880 people.
“If required, shelters will be set up in schools and colleges,” said the DC.
He said adequate dry food have been stored for affected people.
The Chittagong district administration opened control rooms at upazila level and a central control room at the DC office. People can call the central control room at 031-611545.
Speaking at the meeting, Chittagong District Civil Surgeon Azizur Rahman Siddique said leave of all doctors was suspended.
A total of 284 medical teams, each comprising a doctor and two assistants, were put on standby with medicines at union level. The control room of the civil surgeon's office can be reached at 031-634843.
MANY UNWILLING TO MOVE
Zitu Bonik of Chittagong's Kattali area said they would move to a cyclone shelter only after the storm hit the district.
“Most people in our locality are staying indoors as the weather is still not stormy,” he told The Daily Star last night.
Mohammad Ali of North Patenga said it was pointless going to a cyclone shelter hours before a cyclone hits.
“We have valuables in our homes and we don't want to leave those behind as the weather is not stormy yet.”
Meanwhile, the Sitakunda upazila administration with the help of police forced nearly 100 people of Sonachhori village to move to a nearby cyclone shelter, said Executive Magistrate Ruhul Amin.
COX'S BAZAR, BHOLA, BARGUNA
The Cox's Bazar district administration started evacuating people from coastal areas in the morning. The authorities opened 538 cyclone shelters with a total capacity of 5 lakh people.
Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Ali Hossain, also the chairman of the district disaster management committee, said announcements were made through loudspeakers since morning asking people to move to safer places.
Dozens of schools in Cox's Bazar Sadar, Chakaria, Kutubdia, Ukhia, Pekua, Moheshkhali, Ramu and Teknaf upazilas would be used as emergency shelters, said Cox's Bazar Additional Deputy Commissioner Kazi Md Abdur Rahman.
According to district administration sources, 88 medical teams and around 21,000 volunteers were ready for any emergency response.
In Bhola, the district administration made announcements through loudspeakers in all upazilas, warning people about the Cyclone Mora. Seven control rooms were opened to monitor the situation, said the Bhola DC.
Over 500 cyclone shelters were opened and people were reaching the centres.
The volunteers of Cyclone Preparedness Programme and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society would be ready for any emergency support in the district.
In Barguna, 98 cyclone shelters were opened, said Kishor Kumar Sardar, deputy director of Barguna Cyclone Preparatory Programme.
Some 6,330 volunteers were ready to launch rescue operations anytime, he added.
Mostafa Quader, president of Fishing Trawler Owners Association, said only around 60 fishing trawlers out of 200 reached Pathargata Fishing Ghat in Barguna by afternoon.
Most of the trawlers, which went to deep sea for fishing, were not aware of the cyclone, he added.
Our correspondents in Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Patuakhali and Jhalakathi contributed to this report.