KHULNA, BANGLADESH (AFP) – Eight people died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in storm shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh with fierce gales and torrential rains, officials said yesterday.
The cyclone packed winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour when it hit late Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.
Three people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by the falling branches of a tree in Kolkata. A fourth person died in a wall collapse in nearby Odisha state. In Bangladesh, four more were killed by falling trees and at least 20 people were injured. The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, Bangladesh’s disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP.
In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.
Some low-lying parts of the district were flooded, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP. Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.
“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun told AFP.
Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including the Bengal tigers and the Irrawaddy dolphins.
The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.
Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.
Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.
“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.
“I am worried about my cattle and the straw roof of my house. I could not bring them here. Allah the Almighty knows what is happening there,” the 30-year-old mother of three told AFP.
Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.