Cyclone Remal hits Bangladesh coast as hundreds of thousands evacuate | weather news

At least 800,000 people evacuate their homes in low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh as an intense cyclone makes landfall.

Cyclone Remal hit Bangladesh’s low-lying coast as authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, officials said.

The storm began crossing the coast in Bangladesh’s southern Khepupara district around 8 p.m. (2 p.m. GMT), meteorologist Shamim Ahsan said at a news conference in Dhaka on Sunday.

The cyclone, named Remal, was hitting the coast with winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph), he said.

Authorities have raised the danger signal to 10, its highest level, and Disaster Relief and Management Ministry Secretary Kamrul Hasan said people have been ordered to leave “unsafe and vulnerable” homes.

Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) volunteers use a megaphone to alert people and ask them to evacuate as a preventive measure in Kuakata, Bangladesh (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP)

At least 800,000 people have fled their coastal homes and been moved to cyclone shelters, government ministers and disaster officials said.

But as people fled, Bangladesh police said a heavily loaded ferry carrying more than 50 passengers – twice its capacity – flooded and sank near Mongla, a port in the expected path of the storm.

“At least 13 people were injured and taken to hospital,” local police chief Mushfiqur Rahman Tushar told AFP.

Bangladesh has set up more than 7,000 cyclone shelters and mobilized 78,000 volunteers, Minister of State for Disaster Management and Relief Mohibur Rahman told Reuters.

Cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in recent decades. In May last year, Cyclone Mocha became the most powerful storm to hit Bangladesh since Cyclone Sidr in November 2007. Sidr killed more than 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

The number of superstorms hitting its densely populated coast has increased dramatically, from one a year to up to three, due to the impact of climate change.

Commuters ride a motorized three-wheeled vehicle on a highway as rain clouds loom over the sky, due to the effect of Cyclone Remal, in Kolkata, India (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)

India’s meteorological department said it expected the storm to make landfall in the country overnight.

India has deployed its disaster relief force to the eastern state of West Bengal and flights have been suspended in the main metropolitan city of Kolkata.

More than 50,000 people in India have already moved inland from the vast mangrove forest of the Sundarbans, where the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers flow into the sea, government ministers and disaster officials said.

“We want to ensure that not a single life is lost,” said Bankim Chandra Hazra, a senior minister in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Parts of West Bengal have started experiencing moderate rains and the government has canceled leaves for essential services employees, a civic body official said.

The Indian Navy also said it had kept ships, aircraft, divers and medical supplies on standby for deployment if needed.

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