Bangladeshi authorities evacuate 500,000 ahead of Cyclone Bulbul

Nov. 9 (UPI) — Bangladeshi authorities ordered about 500,000 people to evacuate ahead of Cyclone Bulbul, which is set to make landfall Saturday evening with surges up to 7 feet.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall near one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, the Sundarbans, which is home to endangered Bengal tigers. A dozen coastal districts are in the storm’s path and sea ports are on high alert.

The storm could cause wind speeds of up to 75 mph, with higher gusts, when it hits coastal regions, the Bangladesh Meteorological Department said.

About 500,000 have been evacuated from the coastal region of Bangladesh ahead of the storm, according to Enamur Rahman, a minister of Bangladesh’s Disaster Management and Relief.

“We have taken all measures and people from coastal area … they have been moved to the cyclone shelters,” Rahman said Saturday.

Local volunteers helped spread awareness in the community and armed forces provided security.

Officials suspended operations at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong due to the storm, Rhaman added. Kolkata Airport operations were also suspended.

The Indian Meteorological Department classified Bulbul as a severe cyclonic storm with maximum sustained winds of about 68 mph to nearly 75 mph — similar to a tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

Bulbul was centered over northwest Bay of Bengal, India, about 59 miles east-northeast of Paradip and about 87 miles south-southwest of Balasore in Odisha, India, said Bhubaneswar Meteorological Center Director Habibur Rahaman Biswas, who added that the storm triggered heavy downpour in coastal Odisha.

The National Disaster Response Force and the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force began to clear uprooted trees to allow traffic to flow in affected areas.

Around 3,000 people were evacuated so far from low-lying coastal areas in the state of Odisha, officials said.