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Cyclone Mahasen has stricken Bangladesh’s southern coast, as people packed into evacuation shelters.

The storm hit Patuakhali district on Thursday with winds of up to 100 km/h (60 mph), and was heading for the ports of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar.

Some two people have been killed, Bangladeshi officials say.

Around one million people have been ordered to evacuate low-lying areas in Bangladesh and Burma, and take shelter in cyclone centres.

Displaced Rohingya Muslims, living in camps on both sides of the border, may be particularly vulnerable.

But some of those on the Burmese side have resisted calls for them to evacuate camps in Rakhine state.

The UN has warned that 8.2 million people could be at risk from Mahasen in Bangladesh, Burma and north-east India.

At least 956,672 people have been evacuated from Bangladesh’s coastal areas to more than 3,200 cyclone shelters, the government said on Thursday.

The measures in place are a sign of the preparation the authorities have made for the storm.

Cyclone Mahasen has stricken Bangladesh's southern coast

Cyclone Mahasen has stricken Bangladesh’s southern coast

Warning messages went out to the population across all media before Mahasen hit.

Airports in Chittagong and the resort town of Cox’s Bazar have been shut until the danger subsides. Chittagong’s port, the busiest in Bangladesh, also remains closed.

The Bangladeshi authorities earlier raised the danger level to seven out of 10 for low-lying areas around Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar.

The cyclone covered more than 175km in nine hours before hitting Bangladesh, the country’s Meteorological Department said.

However, the service’s deputy director, Shamsuddun Ahmed, told AFP news agency the cyclone was not expected to cause serious damage as it was “not severe”.

The cyclone “did not gain strength in the last part of its journey as it hit the coast”, he said.


In Bangladesh, there have been reports of waist-deep water submerging low-lying areas and houses being damaged. Dozens of huts collapsed when the cyclone struck Patuakhali district, eye witnesses told local media.

There are also fears of a storm sea surge, and authorities have warned that heavy rainfall could cause landslides in hilly regions.

All schools, colleges and some hotels have been declared cyclone shelters. The centres are crowded and people are still rushing in.

In Burma, meanwhile, tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in camps in low-lying areas of Rakhine state are feared to be at risk.

They were displaced by ethnic violence last year and many are reluctant to move from the camps.

Hla Maung said he lost his mother and two young daughters during the clashes between Muslims and Buddhists.

“I lost everything. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’ll stay here. If I die, I want to die here,” he said.

Rakhine state said it had moved some 36,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from camps, said Kirsten Mildren, from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

But she said the evacuation was “not moving as fast as we’d like – it’s certainly a race against time. We’re finding it very difficult to convince [people] to move to higher ground or safer buildings”.

Burmese planning minister Tin Naing Thein said that in all more than 166,000 people had been relocated, but there was little evidence of a mass evacuation in reports from the affected area.

Correspondents say the Burmese evacuations are seen as a test of the government’s resolve to assist the Rohingya, amid allegations that state forces stood by or even participated in last year’s anti-Muslim violence.

Cyclone Mahasen has already taken a toll. Though the storm did not make landfall in Sri Lanka, the associated heavy rain caused floods and mudslides which killed at least seven people, according to the country’s Disaster Management Centre.

At least 50 Rohingya Muslims drowned on Tuesday when boats evacuating them from the path of the cyclone capsized off western Burma.

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Bangladesh has ordered the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from its coastal areas threatened by Cyclone Mahasen.

The Bangladeshi authorities have raised the danger level to seven out of 10 for low-lying areas around Chittagong and the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar.

The cyclone, heading north-east through the Bay of Bengal, is estimated to reach land on Thursday.

Burma is also threatened and evacuation efforts are under way there.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in camps in low-lying areas of Burma’s Rakhine state are feared to be at risk.

Bangladesh has ordered the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from its coastal areas threatened by Cyclone Mahasen

Bangladesh has ordered the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from its coastal areas threatened by Cyclone Mahasen

They were displaced by ethnic violence last year and many are reluctant to move from the camps.

The country’s National Planning Minister, Tin Naing Thein, said more than 150,000 people had been relocated to higher ground. The government said a fifth of those were Rohingyas.

The Bangladesh Meteorological Department said the storm could create a surge 2 m high in coastal districts and residents are being urged to make for cyclone shelters.

The airport in Cox’s Bazar has closed and Chittagong airport is to shut over the next few hours.

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Cyclone Mahasen appeared to have weakened to a Category One storm.

But the UN still described it as “life-threatening” for 8.2 million people in Bangladesh, Burma and north-east India.

At least 50 Rohingya Muslims were feared drowned on Tuesday when boats evacuating them from the path of the cyclone capsized off western Burma.

More than 100,000 people died in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis devastated many of Burma’s coastal villages.

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