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Thousand Flee Cyclone Sidr

Hundreds of thousands are fleeing the path of Cyclone Sidr, which made landfall in Bangladesh Thursday night (local time).

World Vision is helping to house thousands of people in shelters as they take refuge from the monster cyclone.

Two World Vision New Zealand-funded projects may be affected if the cyclone continues on its projected path. The Laudob Area Development Programme (ADP) is likely to be the most severely affected. A disaster response team is also on standby at Chitalmari ADP.

World Vision Bangladesh is putting together an aid response for 20,000 families in the Mongla region of southern Bangladesh. Some 20,000 people are already taking refuge in special cyclone-resistant World Vision-built shelters.

Vince Edwards, National Director for World Vision Bangladesh, said: "We will be putting together a seven-day pack for families. This will include rice, oil, sugar, salt, candles, blankets, mattresses and clothing.

"Some of our staff are with people in the shelters and as soon as the storm passes they will go out to assess the damage and needs. They will be putting the packs together and distributing them while they do these assessments."

He said internationally World Vision would be putting together a US$640,000 response, some of which will be collected through appeals.

The storm, which for a time was classified a Category Five, ground up the Bay of Bengal towards the low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh - one of the most densely populated nations on earth, with 142 million people. It threatened to swamp the country with a storm surge that could be as nearly 5m high.

Most of Bangladesh is made up of deltas and alluvial land and is only a few metres above sea level, making it especially vulnerable to such surges.

Wind speeds of 241km gusting to 296km were being registered before the cyclone hit land.

The triangular shape of the Bay of Bengal serves to funnel storm surge waters into Bangladesh, with the surge worsened by the shallow bay. Of the 13 deadliest cyclones recorded nine occurred in the Bay of Bengal. The biggest and the only CAT 5 cyclone to hit Bangladesh - was in 1991. The 9m storm surge near the coast of Chittagong killed 143,000. The biggest killer to hit Bangladesh occurred in 1970 when more than 500,000 people died.

In India, World Vision staff in the Kolkatta area are also ready to respond if needed, as heavy rain and some flooding in the city are expected.

ends

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