May 14, 2013

BANGLADESH / MYANMAR: Bangladesh And Myanmar Are Bracing For Cyclone Mahasen, A Storm Which Could Affect Millions In The Region

Priyo news
written by Staff
Tuesday May 14, 2013

Dhaka - Bangladesh and Myanmar are bracing for Cyclone Mahasen, a storm which could affect millions in the region, the UN has warned.

The cyclonic storm may hit Bangladesh coast with speed of 115 to 134 kilometer per hour on Wednesday noon, says different met sources.

It was centered at 12:00 noon Tuesday about 1155 kms southwest of Chittagong port, 1085 kms southwest of Cox’s Bazar port and 1050 kms south southwest of Mongla port.

Met official forecasted of heavy to very heavy rainfall during the storm. The ‘Mahasen’ may weaken by the heavy rainfall. The speed of storm will fluctuate between 56 to 98 kph on evening and night.

Bangladesh met office said the cyclonic storm ‘Mahasen’ (with estimated central pressure 996 hPa) over south bay and adjoining west central bay remained practically stationary, it added.

Along with Bangladesh, Myanmar will remain on high alert as rain flooding could be witnessed up to 40km inland. The possibility of the storm weakening could also be considered if the weather system looses most of its energy in the sea itself.

The main worry with this cyclone, as with any storm making landfall in Bangladesh, is storm surge. The northern Bay of Bengal is the worst place in the world for storm surge due to the geometry of the shoreline. The current forecast (again using the JTWC track and the TARU model) is for water levels of 3 to 4 meters near Chittagong, and elevated water levels across the entire Bangladeshi coastline.

The dark green areas are over 2 meters, the orange near Chittagong over 4 meters

Mahasen might hit Bangladesh any time on Wednesday and might also move towards the coasts of Indian Orissa, Shamsuddin Ahmed, a duty forecasting officer of Meteorological Department of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star around 10:30am.

Transitional speed of Mahasen was 10 kms per hours, he added.

Maximum sustained wind speed within 54 kms of the storm centre is about 62 kph rising to 88 kph in gusts/ squalls. Sea will remain very rough near the storm centre.

Met office director Md Shah Alam has appealed to all to prepare for the cyclone, but not to panic.

The cyclone is likely to intensify further and move in a north-eastwards direction towards the coast, he said.

“Mahasen will hit the Bangladesh coast on Wednesday. It is gaining speed. It might intensify more after it is within 400-500 kilometres of the coast.”

“The cyclone can either lose speed or gain some more. Everything depends on the wind speed in the eye of the cyclone and it’s intensity,” Alam said.

The senior Met official was hoping the storm will leave Bangladesh unscathed.

Earlier, cyclones Giri and Nilam had threatened Bangladesh but finally hit either India or Myanmar.

Cyclonic storm ‘Aila’ was the last one to hit Bangladesh in September, 2009. Prior to that, the country suffered from ‘Nargis’ in April 2008, ‘Reshmi’ in October same year and ‘Sidr’ in November 2007.

Shah Alam said cyclones are usual at this time of the year. The met office will ask people to move to safety if and when the warning signal is raised to eight or more.

“We are fully prepared and coordination systems are in place,” Mohammad Abdul Wazed, additional secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told on 13 May from Dhaka, noting that local disaster management committees at district and sub-district level had already been activated.

“Starting yesterday, we have been broadcasting storm warnings every 30 minutes,” said Myanmar's presidential spokesman Ye Htut. “As a precautionary effort, some people in low-lying areas of Rakhine State have already relocated.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a red storm alert remains in effect for Mahasen, also known as tropical Cyclone O1B, just east-northeast of Sri Lanka, now moving northwards across the Bay of Bengal towards both countries.

The storm is expected to strike just south of the Bangladesh port city of Chittagong, but could, depending upon its final trajectory, bring life-threatening conditions for millions of people in northeast India, Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Rakhine State, OCHA warned on 12 May.


Over the past week, parts of northeast India and Bangladesh have received 6-12 inches of rainfall so additional heavy rain will likely produce widespread flooding and possible mudslides. In the coastal Bangladesh city of Chittagong, a city of 2.5 million people, more than 15 inches of rain were recorded in the past eight days.

Currently, authorities have put up the warning signal number ‘4’ in view of the approaching cyclone since Monday.

Currently, humanitarian agencies in Bangladesh are revising their contingency plans for all 13 districts in the cyclone belt, including the pre-positioning of stocks in areas deemed most vulnerable.

Chittagong provincial administrator Muhammed Abdullah said: "We've alerted the people living in the coastal areas, but not evacuated any of them because we still don't know where the cyclone will hit. But we're fully prepared to face any situation."

Around 30 million of Bangladesh's population of 150 million live along the coast.


The Burmese government is taking similar action. The Met Office is warning of heavy rain in the central region, especially in the townships of Magway, Sagaing and Mandalay, with a risk of landslides and flooding if the cyclone passes through coastal areas of western Rakhine State.

On 15 May, rain and a thunderstorm have been predicted in the morning, followed by increasing wind and rain, as well as flash flooding later in the day.

Aid workers are particularly concerned about the 140,000 mostly Rohingya, internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in makeshift camps in Rakhine, many of them in low-lying coastal areas susceptible to tidal surges.

“The potential impact of the cyclone could vastly increase this risk,” said Jane Lonsdale, acting country director for Oxfam in Myanmar. “It is vital that the government takes swift action to ensure all communities, including those that are currently displaced, are in safe locations in preparation for the potential impact,” she said - a call the government has already begun to heed.

“The government has been very proactive and assigned responsibility to the Rakhine State Government who immediately activated the emergency response committee at state and township levels, and activated their Disaster Reduction Plan which includes relocation and evacuation plans. They have developed a three-stage action process, depending on the severity of the storm, with the third stage being evacuation of a large number of IDPs using military assets,” said Kirsten Mildren, a spokeswoman for OCHA in Bangkok.

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