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Bangladesh readies evacuation plans as cyclone nears

A rickshaw driver carried a passenger through rainy weather in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Monday as Tropical Storm Mora headed towards the country's coastal areas, including Cox's Bazar.
A rickshaw driver carried a passenger through rainy weather in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Monday as Tropical Storm Mora headed towards the country's coastal areas, including Cox's Bazar.ABIR ABDULLAH/European Pressphoto Agency

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — Bangladesh on Monday was bracing for its first cyclone of the year, with more than 1,000 shelters set up for people who may need to flee as the storm approaches the low-lying delta nation.

Tropical Storm Mora is expected to make landfall early Tuesday as a Category 1 cyclone. Officials expect at least 15 districts, including Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong, to be inundated by the storm surge.

Officials said they were ready to begin removing people Monday night if conditions worsen. More than 20,000 volunteers were ready.

Some residents weren’t taking any chances. Many of the 22,000 people in Cox’s Bazar’s on Moheshkahli Island, where 10,000 people died in a cyclone in 1991, were already moving to cyclone shelters.

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‘‘We are at high risk,’’ local representative Kamrul Hasan said.

Chief district administrator Ali Hossain said authorities were monitoring weather developments and were ‘‘ready for any situation.’’

‘‘We have kept vehicles and small boats ready for taking people to safety,’’ said Hafiz Ahmed, disaster management official in Cox’s Bazar.

In Sri Lanka on Monday, a group of soldiers carried a body wrapped in a tarpaulin to police for identification, while others dug through piles of mud after flash floods.

Searchers found a motorbike, pieces of furniture, and clothes, the only signs of 15 homes that stood on Kiribathgala Hill in the town of Pelmadulla just a few days ago.

Helicopters searched elsewhere for people still marooned after rain-triggered floods and mudslides inundated villages last Thursday, killing at least 169 people and leaving 102 others missing, officials said.

With more rain expected, rescuers raced to evacuate villagers from the most vulnerable areas around the country. Already, more than 75,000 people have taken shelter in 337 relief camps set up in the south and west.

The rains caused part of Kiribathgala Hill to come crashing down, burying the 15 homes and their 26 inhabitants under huge rocks, mud, and fallen coconut trees, village officer Udari Erabedda said. Soldiers have recovered 12 bodies, including those of two women and a child dug out on Monday. The others remain missing.

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The hill in Sri Lanka’s Ratnapura district, known for gems and precious stones, is 75 miles southeast of the capital, Colombo. Most residents make their living by tending small plots of tea or spices, or by working in nearby gem mines.