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Savage and Deadly, Cyclone Mahasen batters Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, moves into India

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Cyclone Mahasen battered southern coast of Bangladesh, turning remote fishing villages upside down with heavy rain and fierce winds. More than one million people have been evacuated as straw huts have been pounded flat. Mahasen also touched down in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and is now working its way into India.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that depending on its trajectory, Mahasen could bring life-threatening conditions to about 8.2 million people in Bangladesh, Myanmar and northeast India.

Tens of thousands of people had fled their shacks along the coast and packed into cyclone shelters, hotels, schools and government office buildings in the seafront resort town of Cox's Bazar. The crisis passed, however with sunny skies. Local government administrator Ruhul Amin said he planned to close the shelters by that evening. "Thank God we have been spared this time," Amin said.

The cyclone had originally hit land with maximum wind speeds of about 62 miles per hour but then quickly weakened to 56 miles per hour. The storm on Myanmar's western coast was especially difficult for the tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya people living in plastic-roofed tents and huts in refugee camps.

River ferries and boat services in Bangladesh were suspended with many factories near the Bay of Bengal shuttered. The military said it was keeping 22 navy ships and 19 Air Force helicopters at the ready.

The storm brought back unwelcome memories of a 1991 cyclone that slammed into Bangladesh from the Bay of Bengal. That holocaust killed an estimated 139,000 people and left millions homeless. Myanmar's southern delta in 2008 was devastated Cyclone Nargis, which swept away entire farming villages and killed more than 130,000 people. Cyclone Mahasen is resolutely rated as Category 1, which is the weakest level.

Authorities have since been downgrading warnings as the storm gradually lost strength. Mahasen began moving northeast, into northeastern India, as it lost strength, meteorological officials said.

"It has now crossed over coastal areas and is a land depression over Bangladesh and adjoining areas of India and will gradually weaken further," Mohammad Shah Alam, the director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department says.
 
Mahasen first hit Khepupara on the southern coast and then weakened as it headed northeast.

Witnesses say that low-lying coastal areas were covered in waist-deep water, trees were uprooted and houses damaged.

A Bangladeshi army official at a control center set up to help with relief work said six people had been killed, some by falling trees.

A residual effect of the storm -- mudslides could still be a danger as heavy rain spreads farther north and east.



 

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