Dhaka: Bangladesh on Tuesday ordered massive disaster preparedness measures as the cyclonic storm `Mahasen` started moving towards the country`s southern coastline after being stationery for hours in the Bay of Bengal.
"All out preparedness is underway at the coastal areas," disaster management minister Mahmud Ali told a news briefing as the Met office issued a bulletin in the evening saying Mahasen at the southeastern bay had moved slightly northwestwards.
The bulletin said the cyclone was likely to intensify further and move in a northerly direction though the earlier issued storm intensity of 4 on a scale of 10 remained unchanged.
According to the bulletin the cyclone now lies over West Central Bay and adjoining east Central Bay and was centred at 6 pm today about 1080 kms southwest of Chittagong Port, 1015 kms Southwest of Cox`s Bazar Port and 970 kms South Southwest of Mongla Port.
The bulletin said the storm was likely to intensify further and move in a north-northeasterly direction.
"We, however, don`t expect the cyclone to hit our coastline before tomorrow night or Thursday morning," Met office director Shah Alam told PTI.
He also said the meteorologists were not sure if the Mahasen would definitely hit the Bangladesh coast or shift course but added that the scenario could be clearer by tomorrow evening.
But 13 vulnerable districts along the southern coastline witnessed cloudy weather with rainfall throughout the day while officials said they were preparing for a massive evacuation, stockpiling dry food and mobilising medical and rescue teams.
The district and local administrations and Red Crescent volunteers launched a campaign using megaphones asking people to prepare for evacuation if required and issuing directives about the "do`s and don`ts" in case of the cyclone or tidal surges.
The last such cyclone `Aila` devastated Bangladesh coastline in 2009 killing 190 people but a deadlier tidal surge Sidr ravaged the coastlines in 2007 claiming 3363 lives.
Hundreds of small fishing boats and trawlers in the north Bay rushed to the shore for shelters responding to the warnings for the first such storm in the season to approach Bangladesh coast.