Bangladesh has evacuated at least 350,000 people as Cyclone Mora lashed coastal areas on Tuesday, packing heavy rains and winds that destroyed hundreds of homes on several islands in the Bay of Bengal.
The severe storm made landfall between Cox’s Bazar and the main port city of Chittagong early on Tuesday morning, the Bangladesh Meteorological Department said.
No casualties have been reported yet.
Golam Mostafa, a government official coordinating the evacuation, said people were moved from low-lying coastal areas to “at least 400 cyclone shelters, schools and government offices”.
The cyclone also caused havoc in refugee camps set up for some 200,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar.
Shamsul Alam, a Rohingya community leader, told Reuters news agency that damage in different camps was severe with almost all the 10,000 thatched huts in the Balukhali and Kutupalong camps destroyed.
“Most of the temporary houses in the camps have been flattened,” Alam said.
Omar Farukh, a community leader in Kutapalong camp, said conditions were dire: “Now we’re in the open air.”
About 10 million of Bangladesh’s population of 160 million live in coastal areas.
Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury, reporting from Dhaka, said the greatest danger lay to fishermen who do not abide by government requests to call in their vessels.
“Many fishing trawlers are still out in the bay. Many of them usually get lost in storms and they are hard to account for. This is where a lot of the casualties happen.”
He added: “Lots of houses have been damaged. Trees have fallen… A lot of the houses along the coastline are barely tin sheds and mud huts, which cannot withstand this kind of storm.
The cyclone was expected to weaken in Bangladesh by late morning as it moved inland towards India where authorities have warned of heavy rain in the northeastern states of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
It formed after monsoon rains triggered floods and landslides in Sri Lanka, off India’s southern tip, which have killed at least 180 people in recent days, authorities said.
In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, 24 people have been killed in recent days, either by lightning or in collapsed dwellings.
Bangladesh is routinely hit by bad storms between April and December that cause deaths and widespread property damage.
In May last year, Cyclone Roanu hit the southern coast of Bangladesh leaving 20 people dead and forcing half a million to flee their homes.