24 killed as Cyclone Roanu hits Bangladesh over 5 lakh evacuated

Dhaka: At least 24 people have been killed and over 100 others injured as cyclone Roanu battered Bangladesh's southern coast, triggering landslides, forcing authorities to evacuate over five lakh people and leaving thousands homeless, officials said on Sunday.

With a wind speed of up to 88 kilometres per hour, the cyclone hit the Barisal-Chittagong region on Saturday, impacting the entire country. Most places witnessed rain and thunder showers accompanied by temporary gusty and squally wind. "The death toll now stands at 24 with four more casualties reported overnight," Bangladesh's Disaster Management department's Director General Reaz Ahmed told PTI.

11 people, including minor children, were killed in the northwestern port city of Chittagong, which appeared to have suffered the worst in the cyclone, Ahmed said. The southwestern Bhola, northwestern Noakhali and Cox's Bazar coastal districts witnessed three deaths as the storm damaged 85,000 homesteads and business structures along the coastlines, he said.

Several of the victims drowned in inflated waters caused by surges. Landslides, collapse of houses and uprooted trees killed others, officials said.

"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 said.

A disaster management ministry spokesman said over 500,000 people were evacuated to cyclone shelters and preparations had been made to secure some 21,00,000 people. Many Bangladeshis were returning home on Sunday but officials said thousands of others along the coast had been left stranded in their homes as dozens of villages were flooded.

Meteorologists said the cyclone first hit the southwestern coast and then proceeded towards the southeast turning the sea very rough.

The Shah Amanat International Airport, Chittagong, suspended all of its flight operations due to Roanu. Experts said the casualty figures appear less as the cyclone hit the coastlines during the day time. The government ordered a massive evacuation campaign after the MeT office yesterday turned its 'local warning signals' to 'danger signals' for all its four seaports, covering the entire coastlines.

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

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.

Two of the deadliest cyclones that hit in 1970 and 1991 claimed about 500,000 and 140,000 lives respectively.

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