Cyclone Remal made a landfall on the Bangladesh coast on Sunday bringing with it heavy rains, strong winds, and destruction. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone is expected to impact the West Bengal region around midnight. This is the first cyclone over the Bay of Bengal in this pre-monsoon season.

Cyclone Remal Hits Bangladesh and Eastern India, Over 1 Million Evacuated

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Cyclone Remal hit the coast of Bangladesh in Barisal on May 26, 2024. Strong winds and heavy rainfall caused damage to infrastructure and property especially in coastal areas. Initial reports indicated two deaths in Bangladesh.

West Bengal authorities evacuated over 1 lakh people from vulnerable areas as a precautionary measure. In Bangladesh nearly 800,000 people were evacuated to cyclone shelters.

Both Kolkata Municipality and Kolkata Police Disaster Management teams were actively involved in clearing uprooted trees and debris.

The IMD predicted heavy rainfall and strong winds in West Bengal, coastal Bangladesh, and other northeastern states.

Cyclone Remal weakened into a Cyclonic Storm by Monday morning but continued to bring heavy rains to the region. An orange alert was issued for West Bengal predicting heavy to very heavy rains until May 28.

Kolkata recorded 146 mm of rainfall between 8:30 AM on Sunday and 5:30 AM on Monday. Other areas like Haldia (110 mm), Tamluk (70 mm), and Nimpith (70 mm) also experienced rainfall.

Electric poles and trees were uprooted in various parts of Kolkata leading to power outages and traffic disruptions.

At least seven people died in Bangladesh due to the Cyclone Remal. Millions were left without power as the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board cut off electricity to minimize damage. Heavy rains and strong winds caused flooding in dozens of villages in Bangladesh.

Cyclone Remal was named by Oman with “Remal” meaning “sand” in Arabic. The IMD follows a specific naming convention for tropical cyclones forming in the North Indian Ocean including the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

The naming convention is part of a global system managed by Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) and Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWCs).

The WMO, an agency under the United Nations, oversees the naming of tropical storms to avoid confusion and facilitate disaster risk awareness and management.

Each tropical storm is given a unique name by alphabetical order provided by the member nations of the WMO.

The PTC was established by the WMO in 1972 for effective cyclone warning and disaster mitigation in the North Indian Ocean region.

Initially comprising eight member nations, the panel expanded in 2018 to include Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

An orange alert remains in effect for West Bengal with predictions of heavy rainfall and strong winds until May 28. Fishermen have been advised to avoid venturing into the north Bay of Bengal.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed 14 teams across West Bengal for rescue and relief operations.

Kolkata’s Municipality and Disaster Management teams continue to work on clearing debris and restoring normalcy.

Train and flight services that were halted due to the Cyclone Remal are gradually resuming. The Sealdah division of the Eastern Railway implemented emergency measures including establishing control rooms and deploying staff at critical locations.

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Climate change is believed to be increasing the intensity of cyclones in the region making preparations for natural disasters more urgent. The IMD warned of heavy showers over Assam and other northeastern states for the next two days.

Cyclone Remal caused flooding in coastal villages and damaged flood protection embankments. Schools in the affected regions were closed until further notice. Power outages affected approximately 15 million people lasting over 12 hours in some areas.

In West Bengal, roofs on thatched houses were blown away and electric poles and trees were uprooted. Heavy rains caused waterlogging in several areas of Kolkata leading to traffic diversions.

Three people were injured in Kolkata due to the cyclone remal with numerous reports of uprooted trees disrupting vehicular movement.

The Kolkata airport which was shut down as a precaution, resumed operations early on Monday. Bangladesh’s Chattogram airport was also shut down with all domestic flights to and from Cox’s Bazar canceled.

Cyclone Remal made landfall with gusts reaching up to 135 kilometers per hour (84 mph) and was later downgraded to 115 kilometers per hour (71 mph) as it moved inland.

The storm is expected to deliver more than 89mm (3.5 inches) of rain and wind-driven storm surges between 2.5 to 3.7 meters along the coasts of the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh’s maritime ports of Mongla and Payra issued the Great Danger Signal 10, the highest alert, advising all fishing and boating vessels to seek shelter.

Over 800,000 people were evacuated from low-lying coastal areas. Officials reported that many evacuees were housed in more than 7,000 cyclone shelters with 78,000 volunteers mobilized to assist.

Authorities evacuated more than 100,000 people from vulnerable areas in West Bengal focusing on regions such as Sagar Island, Sundarbans, and Kakdwip. In total over 1 million people across both countries were evacuated.

In West Bengal’s North and South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts, roofs of thatched houses were blown away, electric poles twisted and trees uprooted.

Millions are without power as authorities shut down electricity supply to many areas to prevent accidents, fallen trees and broken lines further disrupted supply.

The Rohingya communities in Cox’s Bazar, who fled persecution in Myanmar are at high risk. Their makeshift shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulin are especially vulnerable to strong winds, rain, and landslides.

Approximately half a million people in Bangladesh live in houses made of fragile materials such as clay, wood, plastic sheets, straw, or tin.

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At least two people were killed in West Bengal. One individual was injured by debris in the Gosaba area of the Sundarbans.

Several people were injured due to the storm’s impact with a man reportedly swept away by tidal surges in Patuakhali.

The government set up over 7,000 cyclone shelters and deployed 78,000 volunteers. Disaster response teams were active in aiding affected populations.

The Indian Coast Guard and National Disaster Response Force were involved in monitoring the storm and conducting relief operations.

The Indian Navy kept ships, aircraft, divers, and medical supplies on standby. Flight operations at Kolkata airport were suspended but resumed on May 27 after a 21-hour closure.

A study by researchers at the Shenzhen Institute of Meteorological Innovation and the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicates that tropical cyclones in Asia could double in destructive power by the end of the century due to the climate crisis.

The frequency of superstorms hitting Bangladesh’s densely populated coast has increased from one a year to as many as three.

Climate scientists warn that the extremes of weather including cyclones and severe heat will continue to intensify and causes risks to millions of people in India and Bangladesh.

Video footage from Mongla showed residents struggling through floodwaters as gusty winds nearly toppled them.

In Kuakata, volunteers of the Cyclone Preparedness Programme used megaphones to alert and evacuate people from unsafe homes.

Footage from West Bengal showed workers removing broken trees during heavy rain. The Indian Coast Guard was on high alert with disaster response teams ready to respond to post-impact challenges.

Bangladesh and eastern India are no strangers to cyclones. Cyclone Mocha in May last year was the most powerful storm to hit Bangladesh since Cyclone Sidr in 2007, which killed over 3,000 people and caused damage.

Parts of western and central India are experiencing severe heatwaves with temperatures raising beyond 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) leading to illnesses and school closures.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reviewed disaster management and preparation efforts. Modi urged people to stay informed and follow official advisories.

In Bangladesh, Disaster Management and Relief’s Secretary Kamrul Hasan stressed the importance of evacuating people from unsafe homes and State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Mohibur Rahman highlighted the preparations made including setting up cyclone shelters and deploying volunteers.

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