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Cyclone poised to slam into Bangladesh, eastern India

by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) Nov 14, 2007
A cyclone packing high winds and heavy rains could slam into Bangladesh as early as Thursday and India a day later, forecasters said.

Bangladesh went on alert on Wednesday as weather officials said Tropical Cyclone Sidr, hovering over the Bay of Bengal, could hit the southeastern coast of the disaster-prone country within 24 hours.

"The cyclone is approaching the coastal area of Bangladesh. It may hit Cox's Bazar and Chittagong districts by tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon," said Sanaul Haque, a weather department official.

Volunteers working for the cyclone preparedness programme were on standby to evacuate residents to shelters, the official BSS news agency reported.

Meteorologists would be able to predict the course of the cyclone more accurately by early Thursday, Haque said.

"It if hits the coastal area with its present intensity, it will be catastrophic," he said.

In 1970, some half a million people died when a cyclone hit the impoverished country, while an estimated 138,000 people died as a result of a cyclonic tidal wave in 1991.

The lower death toll in 1991 was attributed to a network of cyclone shelters and a warning system introduced after the 1970 disaster.

Indian weather officials also warned of a "very severe cyclonic storm" hovering 850 kilometres (530 miles) from the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.

They forecast it would hit West Bengal's southern islands early Friday.

"The storm is likely to cross Sagar Island and coastal villages of West Bengal before entering Bangladesh," eastern region weather centre director Gokul Chandra Debnath told AFP.

In West Bengal, which shares a border with Bangladesh, officials began evacuating villagers from the Sunderbans delta islands that form the southernmost point of the state and fishermen were warned to stay home.

Heavy rains and gale force winds of 50 to 60 kilometres per hour were expected Thursday on India's eastern coast, a warning from the Indian weather department said.

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More than 600 killed, millions impacted by Yangtze flooding
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