New Delhi (Mizzima) – Torrential rains along with mild winds have begun hitting Sittwe, capital of western Burma's Arakan state, ahead of the expected arrival of Cyclone Bijli, according to a local resident.
“It is raining now, and there is lightening along with a mild wind blowing, but it is not so severe as yet,” the local resident told Mizzima on Friday evening.
The local said he believed the rain and wind could be signaling the onset of Cyclone Bijli, predicted to hit the region by the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology.
Burma’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology on Thursday issued a cyclone warning, saying Bijli, stirring in the Bay of Bengal, is heading north-northeastwards and is expected to cross Burma's northern Arakan coast.
The warning said the storm is likely to sweep through Arakan state at wind speeds of 60 to 70 miles per hour and may cause a sea surge of five to seven feet.
“All vessels, public, private and governmental, navigating in Myanmar [Burma] waters along the Rakhine [Arakan] coast are advised to take precautionary measures by navigating away from the area exposed to the threat from rough seas and strong winds till 18 April 2009,” the Department said on its website announcement.
Similarly, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC) as recognized by the World Meteorological Organization, said it has issued a warning for the coastal areas of Orissa and West Bengal in India, warning that the cyclone is also likely to sweep across Bangladesh.
“As of now, our forecast is that the cyclone is likely to hit the Bangladesh coast near Chittagong, but so far we are not getting signals that it will hit the Myanmar [Burma] coast,” B. P. Yadav, director of the IMD told Mizzima.
Yadav said the cyclonic storm, which is likely to reach speeds of more than 100 kilometers per hour, could cause property damage and even human casualties if it makes landfall in Bangladesh.
But he added, “So far there is no prediction that it will hit Myanmar [Burma].”
Cyclone Bijli, expected to make a landfall on Saturday, is likely to dilute and pass over Burma’s coastal regions, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre said on Friday (ADPC).
ADPC, which oversees and provides weather forecasts for over 26 Asian countries, including Burma, said its latest reports indicate that Cyclone Bijli is diluting as it is moving into the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal.
“It is going to pass the Myanmar [Burma] coast and the system is diluting,” Roopa Rakshit, Communications and Information Manager of ADPC told Mizzima on Friday afternoon.
Rakshit said ADPC received an update only minutes previously indicating that Cyclone Bijli is unlikely to score a direct hit on Burma’s coast.
According to a warning issued by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, an official U.S. Navy website, cyclone Bijli, which is currently centered at about 350 to 400 miles southwest of the Indian state of West Bengal, is moving north-northeastwardly.
“The Cyclone will continue to track eastward over the next 12 to 24 hours and slightly intensify prior to making landfall in Southeastern Bangladesh…” the warning reads.
“The system will then dissipate rapidly as it encounters higher inland terrain,” added the warning.
Burma suffered heavy casualties of up to 134,000 dead or missing when Cyclone Nargis struck the coastal regions of Irrawaddy and Rangoon Divisions on May 2, 2008. The cyclone left a further 2.4 million survivors in need of aid.
While efforts continue in the reconstructing of the lives of victims in the Irrawaddy delta, the warning of another impending cyclone on Friday was cause for fresh alarm among local residents in the Irrawaddy delta, eyewitnesses reported.
A local resident from the town of Laputta, one of the hardest hit regions of the Irrawaddy delta last year, said that since Thursday evening villagers near the coast have been seen moving into the town as a precautionary step against the looming storm.