DHAKA – At least 21 people in six districts were killed Saturday in Bangladesh as tropical Cyclone Roanu hit the coast and led authorities to transfer up to 500,000 people to shelters. Heavy winds and sheets of rain caused house collapses, landslides, and broken embankments, leaving more than 100 injured.
Before Saturday’s disaster, the cyclone dumped 9 to 13 inches of rain in Bangladesh and more than 18 inches in Kakinada, India. When it touched down, it hit the south and southeast regions of Chittagong and Barisal with 55 mile-per-hour winds, CNN reported.
Most of the people considered as vulnerable have been transferred to 3,500 shelters and authorities are working to tackle the damage, Disaster Management, and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya said.
Authorities in Chittagong evacuated people from hilly areas out of fear that persistent rain could cause additional landslides. Flights at the airport were canceled and the country’s inland water transport authority decided to restrict the activity of all ferries and ships, The Guardian reported.
As of late Saturday, the weather office recommended fishing boats to stay in shelters at least until midday on Sunday.
A representative of the disaster management ministry Dalil Uddin told CNN that many of the deaths occurred as people ended up buried under uprooted trees, landslides and destroyed houses, shops, and electric poles. He noted that the death toll was likely to rise.
Officials told reporters that road and power communications were disrupted by the cyclone in several regions of the country.
Previous cyclones in Bangladesh
— CNN Weather Center (@CNNweather) May 21, 2016
The country is vulnerable to cyclones due to its location and sea level geography. In 2009, about 200 people died as Cyclone Aila hit Bangladesh and Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people back in 2007.
According to a report by the United Nations, at least 140,000 people lost their lives when a cyclone struck in 1991. And a storm described as the “greatest tropical system disaster” of the 20th century by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration killed 500,000 people in 1970 when Cyclone Bhola battered Bangladesh before hitting East Pakistan.
Recent storms have caused fewer fatalities due to enhanced warning systems and shelters.