Skip to main content

Cyclone Mahasen pulls its punch

By Tom Watkins and Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Thu May 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "The situation is turning normal," a Bangladeshi official says
  • NEW: At least 12 people were killed
  • Hundreds of thousands of people had been relocated to safer areas

(CNN) -- Tropical Cyclone Mahasen jogged northward Thursday prior to striking the coast of Bangladesh, averting the widespread disaster that government authorities had prepared for.

Still, at least 12 people were killed, thousands of thatched houses were damaged and trees uprooted, the state news agency said.

"The situation is turning normal and the people have started returning home after some 200,000 people took overnight refuge at cyclone shelters at Barisal Division," divisional commissioner of Barisal Mohammad Nurul Amin told Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS).

"The damage was not that much what we feared, and people who took shelters have already started moving to their houses as the weather is becoming almost normal," he said.

Bangladeshi authorities had relocated hundreds of thousands of people in vulnerable areas to safer ground ahead of the storm's arrival.

Bangladeshi men pray in front of the bodies of victims of Cyclone Mahasen in Tekna, south of Dhaka, on Friday, May 17. The bodies washed up on the shores of Bangladesh after the victims' boat capsized while sailing from Myanmar. At least 12 deaths have been reported in Bangladesh due to the cyclone. Bangladeshi men pray in front of the bodies of victims of Cyclone Mahasen in Tekna, south of Dhaka, on Friday, May 17. The bodies washed up on the shores of Bangladesh after the victims' boat capsized while sailing from Myanmar. At least 12 deaths have been reported in Bangladesh due to the cyclone.
Tropical Cyclone Mahasen
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Tropical Cyclone Mahasen Photos: Tropical Cyclone Mahasen
Cyclone Mahasen displaces thousands
CNN Explains: Tropical cyclones

The storm's strongest gusts reached 90 kph (56 mph), weaker than a hurricane, BSS said.

Authorities had suspended port activities at Chittagong, a major transport and commercial hub, and canceled all flights to and from the city's airport.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had warned that Mahasen could put millions of people in the surrounding region at risk.

On Wednesday, aid agencies and local authorities scrambled to prepare residents and to put emergency supplies in position.

Bangladeshi authorities relocated at least half a million people from the coastal districts of southeastern Bangladesh, the top administrative officer of Chittagong Division said.

Authorities prepared thousands of buildings as cyclone shelters.

The OCHA put the number of people ordered to relocate by the Bangladeshi government at 1 million nationwide.

There was reason for the caution: In 1970, Cyclone Bhola killed some 400,000 people, according to the OCHA. Cyclone Sidr killed nearly 4,000 people in 2007, and Cyclone Aila killed about 200 people in 2009.

A vulnerable group in Myanmar

Relocation efforts have also proved challenging in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh.

On Rakhine's coast, Myanmar authorities and relief agencies worked to relocate tens of thousands of Muslims who had been living in makeshift camps in low-lying areas since last year, when their homes were destroyed in sectarian violence.

Most of them are Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority who suffered during decades of military rule in Myanmar.

Sectarian violence erupted last year in Rakhine between Buddhists and Muslims, resulting in the deaths of scores of people, most of them Rohingya. Since then, more than 100,000 Muslims have been forced to live in camps.

In a report last month, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch accused Myanmar authorities of involvement in a Buddhist campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya in Rakhine. The Myanmar government dismissed the report as "one-sided."

The efforts to relocate some of the displaced Rohingya living in the camps appear to have been hindered by distrust of the security forces involved.

On Monday night, a boat ferrying people from one camp in Rakhine to safer areas hit rocks and capsized, the OCHA said, citing the government. Fifty-eight people were missing and an unspecified number died, the agency said.

CNN's Brian Walker and journalist Farid Ahmed contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
ADVERTISEMENT