‘Fani’ likely to hit this evening

Tropical cyclone Fani, packing gusty winds expected at up to 180 km per hour, is likely to hit the Bangladesh coast this evening (May 3), after making landfall in the Indian state of Odisha. Focusing the cyclone nearing the coastal regions, massive disaster preparations are now underway, making it the biggest cyclone disaster preparedness in history in terms of magnitude.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has already mobilised huge resources in all 19 coastal districts to prevent any major damages, including loss human life. Movements of all passenger and fishing boats and ferries as well as air traffic have been suspended in southern Bangladesh spanning over 700 km, as maritime warning signal has been hoisted to no. 9.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, meanwhile, has directed Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, to help in disaster preparedness and rescue operations side by side the usual government efforts. She gave the directive before she left for UK on Wednesday. Meteorological department said that Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat coasts are first to witness the effects of the cyclonic storm with heavy rainfall and intrusion of sea water which may flood certain areas inland.

While sharing his comments with Bangladesh Post, Dr Md Enamur Rahman, State Minister of Disaster Management and Relief said, "We have high alert and monitoring the situation very closely. Our preparations are well coordinated as we are getting, for the first time, hourly weather reports and satellite images of Fani (movements) from the Japanese government. Their near-accurate weather reports are greatly helping us to plan and mobilise resources accordingly."

The minister said, "As part of our unprecedented preparations, we have already started loudspeaker warning announcements to move vulnerable populations to safer shelters. Over 4,070 cyclone shelters are ready to accommodate community people in the face of any disasters, including storm surges and heavy rainfall. "

He said that over 56,000 volunteers in the coastal districts have been deployed to help people seek safe shelters while 200 tonnes of rice and Tk 500,000 in cash has been sent to to each district official for distribution, especially to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone. About 41,000 packets of dry food have also been sent to the districts.

To strengthen the preparedness efforts, weekly and all other holidays of the officials in the districts, vulnerable to the effects of the storm have been cancelled, and they have been asked to be present at their workplaces. The Coast Guard and the Navy have been asked to ferry small island populations to safer places while the Air Force helicopters are kept on standby for emergency relief and rescue operations. Army camps are on high alert to extend support during any rescue operation.

The Chattogram Port Authority, in the meantime, has suspended cargo handling at the main port outer anchorage due to bad weather caused by cyclonic storm Fani. Latest weather reports say that the Bay of Bengal is extremely rough with waves reaching as high as 10 - 15 feet. Bangladesh Meteorological Department has issued danger signal No. 7 for Mongla and Payra ports, 6 for Chattogram. Until 8pm Thursday, cyclone Fani's location was about 368 km south east of the coastal districts.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Fani, which developed over the Bay of Bengal with wind speeds up to 200 kilometers per hour or kmp/h, has turned into an "extremely severe cyclonic" storm, and hit coastal Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states. The possible districts where the cyclone is like to hit are; Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Patuakhali, Barisal, Bhola, Barguna, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chattogram and Cox's Bazar.

The 1991 Bangladesh cyclone was among the deadliest tropical cyclones on record. On the night of April 29, 1991, it struck the Chittagong district of southeastern Bangladesh with winds of around 250 km/h (155 mph).