Thousands Flee as Cyclone Remal Barrels Towards Bangladesh

PATUAKHALI, Bangladesh – Tens of thousands of residents in coastal Bangladesh evacuated their villages on May 26, seeking refuge in concrete storm shelters as the nation braces for the impending landfall of Cyclone Remal. The intense cyclone is expected to hit the country and parts of neighboring India by Sunday evening, bringing with it crashing waves and winds reaching speeds of up to 130 km/h, according to the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

Cyclones have historically been deadly for Bangladesh, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives over recent decades. The frequency of such superstorms has increased, now occurring up to three times a year, largely attributed to the effects of climate change.

Senior weather official Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik warned of a storm surge potentially reaching 12 feet above normal tide levels, posing significant danger to low-lying coastal areas. Consequently, authorities have issued the highest-level danger signal, advising fishermen to avoid the sea and ordering evacuations from vulnerable regions.

Kamrul Hasan, the government’s disaster management secretary, announced plans to evacuate hundreds of thousands of residents from unsafe homes to cyclone shelters. Approximately 4,000 shelters have been prepared along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, with tens of thousands of volunteers mobilized to assist in the evacuation efforts and alert residents to the looming threat.

Cyclone Remal is expected to make landfall between 6 PM and midnight local time (8 PM to 2 AM Singapore time) on May 26. Authorities have ensured that multi-storey shelters can accommodate not only people but also their cattle, buffaloes, goats, and pets.

Helal Mahmud Sharif, chief government administrator of Khulna province, reported that around 20,000 people have been evacuated to shelters in the most vulnerable coastal regions. In the Patuakhali and Bhola districts, an additional 15,000 people and 400 domesticated animals have been relocated.

On Bhashan Char island, home to 36,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, 57 cyclone centers have been readied, according to deputy refugee commissioner Mohammad Rafiqul Haque.

In anticipation of the cyclone, the country’s three seaports and the airport in the second-largest city, Chittagong, have been closed. The evacuation and preparation efforts highlight the nation’s urgency and resilience in the face of nature’s fury.