The powerful cyclone Amphan formed in the Bay of Bengal is headed for the India-Bangladesh border, bringing with it the potential for huge destruction and catastrophe in Bangladesh, which is already rattled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, the very severe cyclonic storm was 1,075 km south-southwest of Chattogram port as of 3:00pm on Monday, and might make landfall late on Wednesday on Khulna before heading for Chattogram.
Coastal district administrations said that they had taken all-out preparations to minimize the possible damage from the cyclone. This year's preparations include extra measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Apart from cyclone shelters, educational institutions have been opened so that gatherings which pose Covid-19 infection risk can be averted during the natural calamity.
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman said the authorities had already prepared 12,078 shelters — double the number prepared during cyclone Bulbul last year.
The government will begin shifting the coastal people to the centers on Tuesday.
Shah Kamal, Senior Secretary at the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry, said that women, including those pregnant, senior citizens, differently-abled people and children would be prioritized for the shelters.
He said members of a family will be kept together there through maintaining distance from others.
District correspondents of The Business Standard report in detail:
In Khulna, 361 cyclone shelters have been prepared and coastal area educational institutions have been opened. The local administration plans to shift more than 2.68 lakh people to the infrastructures.
Khulna district relief and rehabilitation officer Azizul Haque said the authorities will bring people to the centers as soon as the cyclone comes within 800 kilometers of the coast.
He said several thousand public and private volunteers are ready for post-cyclone rescue operations.
Mongla port harbor master Commander Sheikh Fakhar Uddin said that 11 commercial ships were at the port on Monday. As per the danger signal level, he said, the vessels will be instructed to move to safe points.
In Chattogram, around 4,000 temporary shelters have been prepared and volunteers were taking preparations for post-cyclone relief and rescue operations. Fishing boats and trawlers in the Bay of Bengal have been asked to stay close to the shore.
Chattogram Additional Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Kamal Hossen said the administration is ready to begin evacuation. Meanwhile, district relief and rehabilitation officer Sajib Kumar Chakrobarti said nearly double the number of shelters has been readied this year compared to earlier times as a measure toward maintaining social distancing.
Chittagong Port Secretary Omor Faruk said that 61 mother vessels are at the outer anchorage of the port.
"Danger signal three is for unloading at the outer anchorage to be stopped. Currently, there is signal 2 at the port," he said.
The Chittagong Port will raise its danger level to 3 when the general danger signal is raised to 5. The ships then will approach safe points adjacent to the Kutubdia-Cox's Bazar belt.
In the meantime, districts located on the Khulna-Chattogram stretch forecast to be hit by the cyclone have taken necessary safety measures.
In Satkhira, 147 cyclone shelters and 1,700 educational institutions have been prepared to accommodate people during the disaster.
As of Monday noon, 1,500 people had been shifted to the infrastructures.
Shyamnagar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Abuzar Gifari said personnel of the Bangladesh army, navy and coast guard are ready alongside the civil administration for post-cyclone rescue and relief operations.
In Lakshmipur, 200 shelters in four upazilas have been prepared. The disaster management measures will strictly follow Covid-19 preventive requirements, said Lakshmipur Deputy Commissioner Anjan Chandra Paul.
Barguna relief and rehabilitation officer Lutfur Rahman said 509 cyclone shelters have been kept ready, with work going on to add more 150 educational institutions.
More than 6,000 Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) volunteers are making people aware about the pre- and post-disaster measures in remote areas.
Barguna Deputy Commissioner MostainBillah said the district embankment is in a vulnerable condition in at least seven points.
"We have asked the Water Development Board to repair the points as soon as possible," he added.
In Bhola, the disaster management committees of seven upazilas and 70 unions held a special meeting on preparedness.
The meeting noted that 1,104 shelters have been prepared and 10,200 CPP volunteers are working on awareness building.
In Patuakhali, 1,102 cyclone shelters in eight upazilas are ready to accommodate people. The educational institutions will also be used if required.
In Cox's Bazar, more than 500 designated shelters have been prepared alongside schools.
In Barishal, 1,051 shelters are ready to accommodate more than 2.40 lakh people. The district administration has been holding a number of meetings on preparedness.
The meetings decided to make announcements on weather updates in the remote areas, immediate harvesting of Boro paddy, protection of livestock and keeping volunteers on standby.
Ministries to go for coordinated approach
The ministry of disaster management and relief said on Monday that the ministries concerned will make a coordinated approach to minimize the loss resulting from the cyclone.
The disaster management ministry has already allocated 3100 tonnes of rice, Tk50 lakh in cash, baby food and dry food items for the cyclone centers.
In the meantime, the health ministry has said it has already ordered civil surgeons to get ready with medical teams to deal with a post-cyclone situation.
Ministry sources said district level medical teams have been formed to respond to any situation.
The ministry of water resources has taken preparations to repair embankments and dams with the support of the armed forces.
The home affairs ministry and local government ministry have also taken preparations, with the ministers concerned meeting on Monday and reviewing the preparations to handle the post-situation.