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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2829

Cyclone 'Bijli' strikes Bangladesh coast causing little damage

M.A. Kader-Asian Tribune Correspondent in Bangladesh

Dhaka , 19 April ( At least five people, including two children, were killed as cyclone "Bijli" struck the Bangladesh coast Friday night, said a food and disaster management ministry official.

Deputy Secretary of the ministry, Md Sultan Ul Islam Chowdhury, briefed reporters on the damage and death toll collated up to 5pm Saturday.

However, the cyclone Bijli turned into a land depression early Saturday morning after striking the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar coastline overnight with winds of up to 100 kph.

This cyclone caused little damage compared to cyclone 'SIDR' battered part of the shore in November 2007, killing around 3,000 people and damaged huge crops and property. A devastating cyclone in April 1991 claimed lives of nearly 140,000 people.

The met officials said the depression was moving in a northeasterly direction and would dissipate by afternoon.

Reports were received of over 600 houses and about 650 hectares of cropland being damaged by the tropical storm that made landfall overnight on the southeastern coast, he said.

However, early reports from correspondents in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar Friday night had said thousands of mud-and-thatch homes were destroyed.

Chowdhury said good preparation was taken in 15 districts of the coastal areas to combat any major calamity.

"The cyclone hit three districts—Chittagong, Cox's Bazar and Bhola—where necessary relief materials are being sent."

Maritime ports were able to lower all danger signals as the storm passed over by afternoon, he added.

Officials in the cyclone-hit district said Saturday morning it would take some time to assess the damage and any further death toll.

Duty officer at the disaster ministry control cell, Syedul Islam said that solid preparations, including evacuations in the coastal belt, prevented high casualties.

Hundreds of thousands were evacuated from homes along the coastline. Except for the two southeastern districts of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, however, Bijli left most of the coast relatively unscathed.

"We don't expect to get news of many deaths," said Islam.

"But there are reports coming in of damage to property and homes."

"We will know more as the day goes on," he added.

Sources in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar said the storm, the first of the cyclone season, damaged thousands of mud-and-thatch houses and cropland, uprooting trees and knocking out power and telephone lines.

The southern districts of Noakhali, Feni, Laxmipur and Bhola were also hit by moderate winds.

Met department official Abdul Mannan said the depression was still packing moderate winds Saturday morning, causing rough seas along the Chittagong and Cox's Bazar coastline. The two maritime ports were asked to keep hoisted local cautionary signal number three up to mid-afternoon.

Chittagong seaport was up and running again from morning, port officials confirjmed.

Chittagong airport, which had also been closed the previous night, was operating again from 8:00 am.

Earlier, Bangladesh authorities on Friday raised cautionary signal 7 for its main port Chittagong as the season's first cyclonic storm, "Bijli", gained strength and was closing in on southwestern shorelines, packing winds up to 90 kilometer per hour (kph).
Of them, Cox's Bazaar and Mongla ports were asked to keep hoisted danger signal 6 and 5, respectively. All fishing boats have been asked to rush back to shore marking the warning.

Storms are graded with signals ranging from 1 to 10, and authorities start major preparations when the signal is raised to five or beyond.

- Asian Tribune -

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