Friday, October 8, 2010

Storm may move towards Arakan State, scientist says

Friday, 08 October 2010 01:41 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A tropical storm in the Bay of Bengal that has caused massive flooding along the Bangladeshi coast might move to northern Arakan State in Burma, a prominent Burmese meteorologist said yesterday.

Former Burma weather bureau chief Dr. Tun Lwin said that a deep depression over the western centre of the bay had turned into “a small storm” and it may move to the state in Burma’s west.

“Usually, storms move northeast. According to the current forecast tracks, it may move to the northern part of Arakan State, [affecting townships] such as Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Minbya,” Tun Lwin told Mizzima.

Reuters news agency however late yesterday described the storm as a tropical cyclone of much greater strength.

“A wall of water whipped up by strong winds over the Bay of Bengal has flooded coastal areas in Bangladesh, forcing about 150,000 people to flee their homes, Reuters quoted Bangladeshi officials as saying yesterday.

Burma’s western neighbour had asked main ports Chittagong and Mongla to issue alerts and advised vessels to remain close to shore until further notice, it reported.

A storm surge over the past two days had sent waves five feet (1.5 metres) high crashing into several towns and villages along the coast of this low-lying nation, but so far there had been no reports of casualties, the report said.

“The surge breached embankments, washed away homes, flooded roads and knocked over electricity pylons and trees, cutting off several villages and leaving thousands homeless,” Reuters reported.

Another 50,000 people were stranded by flooding in Cox’s Bazar, 250 miles (400 kilometres) southeast of the capital of Dhaka, it reported officials as saying.

Weather officials said the storm surge was likely to last a few more days, it said.

However, Tun Lwin said the storm had been churning too briefly to calculate whether it would move towards Burma based on its direction and speed.

Meanwhile, the Indian meteorological department gave more details. At 2:30 p.m. yesterday it reported that the storm was 74 miles (119 kilometers) east of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh state.

It said the storm would pass Gopalpur and Paradip in Orissa State at a speed of up to 55 miles per hour (up to 88 km/h) last night and that it may move northward.

Under the influence of the depression, widespread rainfall with scattered heavy to very heavy falls would occur over coastal areas of Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh states, the India weather bureau warned.

It also advised fishermen not to venture into the sea off these coasts during this period, citing very rough seas.

“The squall is unlikely to become a severe storm as it is very near the coast. But, if it moves away from the coast, it will concern us,” Tun Lwin said.

Heavy rain has fallen in Maungdaw since Wednesday morning, Ashin Manithara, a monk from Alodawpyace Monastery, said.

“The … rain continued the whole day! Today, the rainfall is heavy. The sky is very cloudy. But, there was no official storm warning,” he said.

Heavy rain was also falling on the port of Sittwe in Arakan State and in the former Burmese capital of Rangoon, with accompanying strong winds, he said.

“But there’ll be no floods as the storm is not severe … heavy rain [however] will be falling and it [the storm] will bring strong wind,” he said.

Along with the global climate change, the monsoon of Burma has been gradually shortening since 1978, and storms used to hit Burma after the rainy season.

Tun Lwin warned there could be more storms in Burma this month and next month and that people needed to watch weather conditions and prepare.

Cyclone Laila lashed the Bay of Bengal in May this year. The name “Laila” was suggested by Pakistan and if the current squall has intensified enough, it will be identified as Cyclone Bandu, the name suggested by Sri Lanka.

On May 2 and 3, 2008 Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma and killed at least 140,000 people and displaced about 2.5 million.

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