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DHAKA (AFP) - A powerful cyclone packing winds of up to 240 kilometres (155 miles) an hour has hit Bangladesh's southern coast, the director of the country's meteorological department told AFP Thursday.
"The cyclone has battered Bangladeshi coastal areas. The centre of the cyclone is crossing the Khulna-Barishal coast near the Baleshswar river," Samarendra Karmakar said.
The area is close to Bangladesh's border with the Indian state of West Bengal, which is also expecting highly destructive winds and torrential rains.
Powerful cyclone causes havoc across Bangladesh, forces evacuation of hundreds of thousands
A cyclone that slammed Bangladesh's southwestern coast with winds of 240 kph (150 mph) crossed the country Friday after leveling homes and forcing the evacuation of at least 650,000 villagers, officials said. Two people were reported killed.
Tropical Cyclone Sidr buffeted coastal areas with gale-force winds, driving rain and high waves when it roared ashore on Thursday, forest official Mozharul Islam said in Khulna, 135 kilometers (85 miles) southwest of the capital, Dhaka.
It has been 24-hours since Hurricane Sidr made landfall on the Bay of Bengal coast in Bangladesh. Last night, there was hope that the brunt of Sidr's force would be felt by the less populated areas of the Sundarbans, the mangrove forest that stretches along the western third of the coast. It looks now that the storm hit the coastal belt pretty much dead center, in the district of Bagerhat- a highly-populated area. A friend who runs clinic in the town of Mothbaria, one of the towns in the very center of the devastation, says that there is hardly anything left standing, save a few brick and concrete buildings.
The roads are also gone, washed away by the storm surge. She's unable to go to her clinic only 2 kilometers away. There is no electricity. Food and supplies are scarce, and she estimates that in a few days there won't even be enough rice to go around. Most alarming is that a large number of women and children seem to be missing.
Nearly all of the country has been out of electricity for the last 24 hours, and phone services have been severely disrupted. (Of the numerous phone calls that I have attempted to make, only two have gone through so far.)