B’desh evacuate as cyclone nears

DHAKA: Bangladesh evacuated tens of thousands of people to emergency shelters on the southwestern coast as a cyclone was due to hit the country and neighbouring India, officials said.

Cyclone Aila was expected to intensify in the Bay of Bengal before making landfall between Bangladesh's Khulna district and India's West Bengal state later Monday.

Government weather forecaster Farah Diba told AFP the storm was expected to bring wind speeds of 90 kilometres (56 miles) an hour and could cause water surges of up to eight feet (2.5 metres).

In Khulna, which borders India, 30,000 people had been moved to shelters, according to the district chief Ziaul Alam.

"We are fully prepared. We have mobilised thousands of volunteers and told people, particularly those who live in bamboo shacks, to take shelter in their nearest cyclone shelter," Alam told AFP by telephone.

"We are not so concerned about the wind speed but if the cyclone hits during high tide before 4 p.m. (1000 GMT), the water surge could cause a lot of damage."

Officials and volunteers in neighbouring Satkhira district have evacuated around 10,000 people from their coastal homes, district chief Abdus Samad said.

"We have mobilised medical teams who are on standby, and we have food and drinking water provisions ready if needed."

In November 2007, more than 3,500 people were killed when Cyclone Sidr hit the same districts, the second-strongest storm recorded in Bangladesh.

Low-lying Bangladesh frequently experiences tropical storms and cyclones during the monsoon season. The first of the season made landfall last month causing little damage.