DHAKA, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Around 4,000 cyclone shelters have been kept ready as a cyclonic storm "Mahasen" threatens to batter Bangladesh's southern coast, home to millions of poverty-ridden people, who have lived in thatched houses.
As the cyclonic storm "Mahasen" gathering strength in the Bay of Bengal and continues to move towards the country's coastal belt, the South Asian country canceled the leave of all government employees in the 13 coastal districts.
"Some 50,000 volunteers are also ready for emergency duties," Mesbah Ul Alam, secretary of Bangladesh's Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told Xinhua Tuesday night.
He said Bangladesh Army and many humanitarian organizations like Red Crescent Society are also ready to render their voluntary services.
According to officials, maritime ports in Bangladesh have already been alerted and advised to take adequate precautionary measures as the cyclone originated in the southeast Bay of Bengal continued to move towards Bangladesh coastlines.
"We are not ordering any evacuations as of this time for any parts of the districts," he said adding Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) needs more time to understand clearly when and where the cyclone is finally going to make landfall.
It is, however, widely believed that the cyclone will make landfall somewhere near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border on or before Thursday morning.
Myanmar's Meteorology and Hydrology Department has also suggested inshore and offshore fishing trawlers and vessels off and along Myanmar coastal areas avoid the storm, urging people living along the storm route to be on full alert over the first four days of next week.
"We've also asked our local authorities to remain alert so that evacuation of thousands of people from Bangladesh's coastlines can be done in a short notice in an emergency situation," Alam said.
He said the cautionary signal No. 4 in a scale of 10 has been sounded for all ports when all fishing boats and trawlers over the north bay have been advised to remain close to the coast and proceed with caution till further notice. Alam said the people of the district's coastal areas were alerted about the disaster through loudspeakers, mobile messages and relevant authorities to ensure that they can make the necessary preparations to shift to safe shelters before the cyclone hits. He said 3,770 cyclone shelter centers will be opened immediately in case of any emergency. Authorities have also discussed the stock of food and other essential items in the districts, he said, adding that "We're so far well prepared."
Quoting the BMD officials, he said it currently has winds of up to about 88 km per hour, but is likely to intensify over the next 24 hours.
The BMD's special bulletin said the cyclone at about 3:00 p.m. Tuesday was centered about 1,110 km south-southwest of Bangladesh' s premier Chittagong seaport, some 242 km southeast of capital Dhaka, 1,040 km south-southwest of Cox's Bazaar seaport, about 391 km southeast of Dhaka, and 1,000 km south of Mongla port, about 178 km south of Dhaka.
Tornado and cyclones, killing hundreds of people every year, are common occurrences in this calamity-prone South Asian country of about 153 million people whose per capital income is still less than 1,000 U.S. dollars.
Super cyclone Aila swept across southern Bangladesh on May 25, 2009. It caused widespread damage and affected around 3 million people, leaving at least 179 dead.
Cyclone Aila was the biggest natural calamity in the South Asian delta country after the powerful cyclone Sidr hit the country's southwestern coastal belt on Nov. 15, 2007, leaving more than 4,000 people dead or missing.