Saint Martin’s residents being evacuated

Residents of Saint Martin's at the jetty of island at around 11 in the morning on 13 May
Prothom Alo

Evacuation of residents of Saint Martin’s island to shelter centers from Saturday morning as the very severe cyclonic storm Mocha has been gaining strength in the Bay and moving towards the coast.

The Bay of Bengal has been becoming turbulent although Mocha is positioned 860 kilometers South and South-West. 

Bangladesh Meteorological Department said Mocha might make a landfall in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar and north Myanmar anytime from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening Sunday.

State minister for disaster management affairs Md Enamur Rahman at a press briefing said Cox’s Bazar maritime port has been asked to hoist the great danger signal -10, Chattogram and Payra ports have been asked to hoist great danger signal - 8 while the Mongla port will keep hoisting local warning signal - 4.

Due to the peripheral effect of the cyclone and steep pressure gradient, low-lying areas of Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram, as well as their offshore islands and chars, are likely to be inundated by a wind-driven surge height of 8-12 feet above the normal astronomical tide.

People being evacuated to shelter centers

Around 11,000 people reside on the 8 sq km island in the Bay of Bengal. Apart from three shelter centers, a total of 37 hotels-resorts and cottages have been prepared to evacuate at least 8,000 residents of the island.

There is no cyclone shelter or any pucca installment in the ward no. 9 in the southern part of the island.  Around 2000 people live in the word consisting of six villages including Dakkhinpara, Halbania, Putkabania and Deylpara. Evacuation started in Dakkhinpara and Halbania villages from 9:00am today at presence of Saint Martin’s Island union parishad chairman Mujibur Rahman. A drive is been carried out in the area asking people to go to shelter centers before the storm hits the island.

UP chaiman Mujibur Rahman told Prothom Alo that the residents of ward no. 6 are being evacuated first as the area does not have any building to shelter the people. There is no means of transportation to quickly take the people of this area to shelter centers of the northern part of the island located some 5 kilometers away, he said adding that around 1500 people of the area are likely to be taken to shelter centers. The people of other parts of the island would be evacuated based on the situation, he added.

UP chairman said over three hundred fishing trawlers have already been sent to Khayukkhali canal and Shahparir Dwip.

A local trader named Nur Mohammad, 55, said the residents of the island are in fear and many have left to Teknaf earlier yesterday.

He feared that most of the houses of the island are at risk of being washed away if the storm surge reaches 12 feet.

Firoz Ahmed Khan, former chairman of the Saint Martin’s island, told Prothom Alo that most of the shops in the island have been shut down and panic stricken people are not leaving their houses. 

He said the extent of damage might intensify as the island is not equipped with durable embankments to parry storm surges.

Locals said several teams of volunteers have been warning people of the imminent danger of cyclone Mocha at wards 7, 8 and 9 from this morning.

At least 104 people of 20 families took shelter at the hospital building as of 11 in the morning today. 

Md Ismail, 52, of Paschimpara of the island, took shelter with six members of his family at a room in the hospital. He said he has taken shelter early as cyclone Sitrang inundated his home in last October.  

Saint Martin’s Trawler Owners Association’s secretary Jahangir Alam said passenger trawlers on Saint Martin’s-Teknaf route have been halted as the sea turned turbulent. 

He said the situation seems to be worsening in the island.

Teknaf upazila nirbahi officer Md Kamruzzaman said members of coast guard, navy and police are prepared for disaster management. Over 7000 people can take shelter in three cyclone centers and hotels in the island, he said adding that adequate dry food has been stored.