A tidal surge whipped by cyclonic storm "Aila" caused havoc in coastal region of southern Bangladesh on Monday leaving deaths and destructions and forcing tens of thousands of people affected. The official death toll till Monday evening stood at five, but local media reported varied figures of death from 8 to 21 so far. Leading Bengali language daily "Prothom Alo" Monday night put the figure at 21.
Besides, private news agency bdnews24.com said at least 72 passengers went missing when three trawlers sank in the Meghna river, one of the country's three major rivers, in southern Bhola district, some 200 km away of capital Dhaka.
The cyclonic storm "Aila" formed in Bay of Bengal started crossing southwestern Bangladesh's Khulna coast at around 2 p.m. local time on Monday with a wind speed of 70-90 kms. It also hit the neighboring West Bengal coast of India.
The Bangladesh Meteorological Department in its latest bulletin issued on Monday evening said the remaining part of the storm was still crossing the country's southwestern coastal area.
Thousands of thatched houses in Bangladesh's coastal area were washed away, embankments damaged and tens of thousands of islanders marooned by 10-13 feet (3-4 meters) high surge caused under the impact of the cyclone.
Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzak told a press briefing here late Monday afternoon that though the intensity of cyclone was not strong but abnormal tidal surge washed away many houses and a number of embankments in coastal districts of Barisal, Bagerhat, Laxmipur and Noakhali.
The minister said rescue and relief operation by navy was obstructed as the sea was turbulent. He put the initial death figure at five, but could not give details of deaths and destructions.
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Monday ordered the armed forces to start rescue and relief operation alongside the civil administration.
The army, navy and coastguards moved to the cyclone-hit southern offshore islands but turbulent sea impeded rescue and relief operations in remote areas.
Food Secretary Mokhlesur Rahman Monday said 42,000 volunteers were kept ready in the coastal districts to face any situation from Saturday evening.
He said 1.2 million taka (about 17,143 US dollars) cash and 1,000 tons of rice were allocated for the affected people. He said adequate relief materials are kept stock for the affected people.
The met office in capital Dhaka earlier on Monday advised the country's southwestern maritime port of Mongla to keep hoisted danger signal No. 7 in a scale of 10 and the maritime ports of southeastern Chittagong and Cox's Bazar at danger signal 6.
The met office bulletin cautioned that the cyclonic storm "Aila" may whip tidal surge up to 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) and low areas of some 15 coastal districts may be inundate.
All fishing boats and trawlers over the north Bay of Bengal have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.
Tens of thousands of people from the southern coastlines were evacuated earlier on Monday following a government order to launch an evacuation in view of the further advancement of the cyclonic storm.
Major cities including capital Dhaka are also experiencing drizzle and gusty wind as an impact of the advancing cyclonic storm.
On Nov. 15, 2007, a devastating cyclone Sidr battered Bangladesh 's southern and southwestern coastal areas leaving thousands of people dead or missing.