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Bangladesh on alert as cyclone approaches Bay of Bengal

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Authorities in Bangladesh put more than 50,000 volunteers on standby as a strong cyclone in the Bay of Bengal is expected to hit the low-lying nation’s vast southwestern and southern coast on Saturday evening.

The weather office in Dhaka issued the most severe storm signal for Cyclone Bulbul, packing maximum sustained winds of 74 kilometres (46 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph).

It said the southwestern Khulna region could be worst hit. The region has the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.

Disaster Management Minister Enamul Haque said government offices suspended work in 13 coastal districts.

Authorities also suspended all activities in the country’s main seaports including in Chittagong, which handles almost 80% of exports and imports. All vessels and fishing boats have been asked to stop operating.

Local authorities ordered all school buildings and mosques to be used as shelters.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people, has a history of violent cyclones. But disaster preparedness programs over past decades have upgraded the country’s capacity in dealing with natural disasters, which has resulted in fewer casualties.
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