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20 killed, 500,000 evacuated as Cyclone Roanu hits Bangladesh
May 21, 2016 | 11:19 PM
by PTI
Bangladeshi villagers make their way to shelter in Cox's Bazar on May 21, 2016, as Cyclone Roanu approached. Cyclone Roanu struck the Bangladesh coast on Saturday killing six people and forcing hundreds of thousands more to flee their homes as the storm unleashed strong winds and heavy downpours. AFP
 
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Dhaka: At least 20 people were killed and over 100 others injured as cyclone Roanu battered Bangladesh's southern coast on Saturday, leaving a trail of destruction and prompting authorities to evacuate about 500,000 people.

With a wind speed of up to 88 kilometres per hour, the cyclone hit the Barisal-Chittagong region, sending impacts across the country.

Most places witnessed rain and thundershowers accompanied by temporary gusty and squally wind since early morning.

"So far, we counted 20 deaths (caused by the cyclone) but the figure could rise," Bangladesh's Disaster Management department's Director General Mohammad Reaz Ahmed told PTI.



The tropical cyclone gradually defused after it made a landfall in the coastlines after the midday.

The north-western Chittagong appeared to be the worst victim of the cyclone as it hit the coastline at a speed of 80 kilometre per hour, killing nine people in that port city alone.

Bhola, Noakhali and Cox's Bazar coastal districts each witnessed three deaths, he said.

"In terms of infrastructural and other damages, Chittagong suffered most as well as the cyclone damaged some 40,000 homesteads and business houses there," Ahmed said.

A disaster management ministry spokesman said, so far some 500,000 people have been evacuated.

Officials and reports said under the peripheral impact of the cyclone, codenamed Roanu,

stormy winds levelled several hundred village huts.

The district administration at the scenes of the disaster said they continued to receive reports of growing number of casualties with highest 10 deaths in greater Chittagong alone.

"The officer in charge of Banskhali (of Chittagong) police station reported that seven people were killed there alone...they were victims of drowning or landslides," a police officer stationed in the port city told PTI by phone.

A minor child and a woman in Bhola appeared to be the first victims of the cyclone, which continued to advance keeping an edge with the coastlines from the southwesterly direction towards the south-west, turning the sea very rough.

In Patuakhali, over 300 families have been waterlogged as strong tidal waves caused the dam in Rangabali to break.

Road communications have been disrupted after strong winds uprooted trees blocking highways, reports said.

The Shah Amanat International Airport, Chittagong suspended all of its flight operations due to Roanu.

Very to very heavy falls may occur at places over Dhaka,

Khulna, Barisal, Chittagong and Sylhet divisions, according to a Met office bulletin issued in Dhaka.

An inter-ministerial meeting earlier scrapped Friday's and Saturday's weekend holidays for public employees in 18 coastal districts, saying "50,000 volunteers trained under the Cyclone Preparedness Programme and all Red Crescent volunteers and boy scouts were prepared to join the campaign".

Bangladesh's main port of Chittagong issued a "red alert", ordering ships to immediately leave the port and anchor in the outer anchorage for the safety of the facility.

Authorities also ordered suspension of ferry services in the internal riverine networks as the weather turned rough in rivers too.

Officials in the coastlines said the entire coastal region witnessed light rains as the skyline remained gloomy since Friday sending a signal for an impending danger.

"The people are exposed to danger, but most of them are unwilling to take refuge in shelters saying they were familiar with such warnings but the cyclones did not hit eventually,"

Deputy Commissioner of south-eastern Laxmipur Zillur Rahman said.

Bangladesh is vulnerable to cyclones because of its location at the triangular shaped head of the Bay of Bengal, the sea-level geography of its coastal area and its high population density while two deadliest cyclones occurred in 1970 and 1991 claiming some 5,00,000 and almost 140,000 lives respectively.

But during the past 20 years, the country managed to reduce deaths and injuries from cyclones while the most recent severe cyclone of 2007 caused 4,234 deaths, a 100-fold reduction compared with the devastating 1970 cyclone, according to experts.

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