Two Dead As Cyclone Batters Bangladesh And India

Fierce gales and crashing waves pounded the low-lying coasts of Bangladesh and India on Monday, as a strong cyclone began to diminish as it moved deeper inland.

According to Kamrul Hasan, secretary of Bangladesh’s disaster management ministry, two persons died after Cyclone Remal made landfall on Sunday night.

The storm has disrupted communications, with wind speeds reaching 111 kilometers (69 miles) per hour, according to Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik, senior weather forecaster at the state-run Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

“The severe cyclone will continue to pound Bangladesh coast until 10:00 am (0400 GMT),” Mallik told the AFP news agency.

“The cyclone caused severe rains in various places of Bangladesh. With more rain, the severe cyclone will diminish and become a storm.

Cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in recent decades, but the number of superstorms hitting its densely populated coast has risen dramatically, from one per year to as many as three, as a result of climate change.

According to an AFP reporter in the impacted area, torrential rain and high winds have caused damage to tall buildings, uprooted trees, and blown-off tin roofs.

Around a million people in Bangladesh and neighboring India sought refuge, retreating inland to concrete storm shelters far from the deadly seas.

Most of Bangladesh’s coastal areas are only a metre or two (three to six feet) above sea level, and significant storm surges can destroy villages.

‘Villages are flooded’ 

Authorities have raised the danger signal to its highest level.

Hasan, from the disaster management ministry, told AFP, said there were no immediate reports of damages, but said “embankments in several places have been breached or submerged, inundating some coastal areas”.

But in India’s West Bengal, the “cyclone has blown off the roofs of hundreds of houses”, and also “uprooted thousands of mangrove trees and electricity poles”, senior state government minister Bankim Chandra Hazra told AFP.

Electricity was off across large parts of the affected areas.

“Storm surges and rising sea levels have breached a number of embankments,” Hazra added. “Some island villages are flooded.”

At least 800,000 Bangladeshis fled their coastal villages, while more than 150,000 people in India also moved inland from the vast Sundarbans mangrove forest, where the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers meet the sea, government ministers and disaster officials said.

Mallik, the Bangladeshi weather expert, said the vast mangrove forests of the Sundarbans helped dissipate the worst of the storm.

“Like in the past, the Sundarbans acted as a natural shield to the cyclone,” he said.

While scientists say climate change is fuelling more storms, better forecasting and more effective evacuation planning have dramatically reduced the death toll.

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