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Five dead, thousands flee as Cyclone Roanu nears Bangladesh

[DHAKA] Cyclone Roanu was poised to make landfall in southern Bangladesh Saturday, as strong winds and heavy downpours unleashed by the storm left five people dead and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Officials said the cyclone was expected to hit the Bangladesh coast around 12:00 pm local time (0600 GMT) packing winds of 88 kilometres (54 miles) per hour.

Authorities took 60,000 people to cyclone shelters following a warning that an expected storm surge of up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) could flood villages and towns along the coast.

"It will make the landfall between the Barisal and Chittagong coast," Ruhul Quddus, a forecaster in the government's meteorological department told AFP.

"The peripheral wind of the cyclone has already hit the coastal areas."

Five people perished and hundreds of mud-and-tin houses were damaged in two southern districts after the cyclone brought heavy downpours and strong winds to the coastal region, police said.

"A mother and her young child were killed after landslide buried their hillside home at Sitakundu in Chittagong. The landslide was caused by heavy rains," Shah Alam, a police inspector told AFP.

Two others including a child were killed in Tajmuddin town on Bhola island in the coastal region while a woman in her 50s died under a flattened house in nearby Patuakhali, police said.

Thousands of homes were being evacuated as the cyclone bore down.

"So far we have moved around 60,000 people to cyclone shelters. More will be evacuated by noon," Reaz Ahmed, head of Bangladesh's Disaster Management Department told AFP.

Disaster authorities have shut down sea and river ports and ordered fishing trawlers not to go out, while the meteorological department warned of landslides in southeastern hill districts.

Disaster officials told AFP Friday night that they were prepared to move more than two million people to nearly 4,000 cyclone shelters in the country's south.

AFP