The very severe cyclone Bulbul weakened to a severe storm as it made landfall between the West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts Saturday evening with the maximum wind speed of 120km per hour.

In a special weather bulletin issued at 10:00pm, the Met Office said that Bulbul moved at a speed of 8km per hour north-eastward after making the landfall and was likely to move in north-easterly direction and more weaken.

‘The process of landfall began at 9:00pm but the centre of the storm would not reach Bangladesh until 2:30am,’ said Dhaka Met Office forecaster Quamrul Hasan at 12:30 am. 

Meanwhile, two people were killed in Kolkata and Odisha after the cyclone hit India, reports Agence France-Presse.

Indian media reported that scores of trees were uprooted and houses were damaged as the storm moved inland with flooding rain and heavy winds.

In Bangladesh, authorities evacuated more than 18 lakh people in 14 coastal districts till Saturday evening as severe cyclone Bulbul was closing in on the Barishal-Khulna coast of Bangladesh.

‘We are experiencing extremely heavy rains here,’ Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila nirbahi officer Kamruzzaman told New Age early Sunday.

Bhola deputy commissioner Mohammed Masud Alam Siddique said that at least five people were injured after gusty winds damaged six to seven houses at Lalmohan.

In the morning on Friday, local found the body of fisherman Belal, 40, who had gone missing in the rough sea the day before. About 36 fishermen were still missing as two trawlers were yet to return until Saturday night, said Kuakata’s Latachapli union parishad chairman Anwar Uddin Molla.

National Disaster Response Coordination Centre control room did not have any reports of casualties or damage till 1:10am.

The Met Office said that the storm would continue to cause heavy rains in coastal districts through Sunday.

By 8:45pm, all the 5,551 cyclone shelters in the vulnerable districts in Bangladesh were filled to the brim with the highest number of 3.28 lakh people coming to the government-run centres in Bhola.

‘The evacuation has been completed with 18,26,551 people at government shelters,’ Cyclone Preparedness Programme director Ahmadul Haque told New Age at 9:30 pm.

Intermittent drizzle continued across the coastal districts and elsewhere in Bangladesh, including Dhaka, on the day under the influence of the approaching storm.

‘The cyclone is likely to bring along flooding rains across coastal and central regions,’ said weather forecaster Abdul Mannan.

Ahead of the storm, authorities dispatched troops to the most vulnerable coastal district of Satkhira and shut down the Chattogram international airport for 14 hours till 6:00am on Sunday.

They also rescheduled junior school and madrassah certificate exams, put Navy ships on alert and cancelled leaves of government officials.

Operations at the maritime ports of Chattogram, Mongla, and Payra and all the river ports have remained suspended since Friday night as 14 coastal districts remained under danger signal number 10 and nine.

The storm was unpredictable in the sense that it changed its course and speed frequently, according to the Indian Met Department.

Cyclone Preparedness Programme director Ahmadul told New Age that their employees and volunteers had been working hard since Friday night to bring people at risk to safety.

The rush of the people seeking shelter began after Saturday noon when women and children moved in groups of dozen bringing along livestock.

Adult males chose to stay back at their homes to guard them and planned to leave at the 11th hour depending on the severity of the storm upon its arrival.

‘This is very difficult to convince people to leave their home behind,’ said Shawkat Hossain Biswash, chairman, Lalua Union Parishad, Kolapara, Patuakhali.

‘We have prioritised shifting of women, children and the disabled people to shelters before the nightfall,’ he told New Age in the afternoon.

People mostly walked to cyclone shelters, sometimes spending hours, as there was no arrangement to transport them.

The Inter-Services Public Relations of the defence forces said that the forces were ready to begin rescue and search operation in the aftermath of the cyclone with supplies of relief and emergency health service kits.

The most vulnerable districts are Bhola, Barguna, Patuakhali, Barishal, Pirojpur, Jhalakati, Baghethat, Khulna, Satkhira, Chattogram, Noakhali, Lakshmipur, Feni, Chandpur and their offshore islands and chars.

The Met Office said that these districts could be inundated by tidal surges seven feet above the normal during the storm.

It also issued heavy rainfall and landslide warning for the Chattogram division for 24 hours till 3:00pm on Sunday and asked fishing boats and trawlers not to venture into the north bay and stay in safety until further notice.

The health directorate said that 1,577 medical teams were ready to provide emergency health service in 15 districts.

The disaster management ministry released over Tk 1 crore and other relief materials ahead of the calamity, the ministry said.

The storm was predicted to cause worst damages where coastal protection embankments were not maintained regularly.

News agency United News of Bangladesh reported that 500 kilometers of embankments in Khulna, Satkhira and Bagherhat were in bad shape.

International media have identified Bulbul as an ‘unusual’ storm for it originated from the remnants of a storm that travelled about 1,800 kilometers overland.

Formed over the Pacific Ocean, it was dubbed cyclone Matmo when it made landfall in Vietnam on October 31 and then weakened as it travelled overland.

The Matmo also caused flooding rains in the central Philippines.

Bulbul is reminiscent of the great Bhola cyclone that hit Bangladesh 49 years ago on November 12, 1970, killing between 300,000 to 500,000 people depending on estimates.

The Met Office recorded 33 historical cyclones in Bangladesh since 1960.

Nine of them occurred in November, the second highest number for a month after October.

The previous November storm dubbed Sidr occurred on November 15, 2007, killing 3,000 people.

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