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Millions in Bangladesh brace for deadly cyclone

Authorities have evacuated thousands in the path of the deadly Cyclone Roanu, which has already killed over twenty people. Officials warned of possible landslides and flooding along the coast, prompting evacuations.

Roanu battered Bangladesh's coastline on Saturday, killing at least 23 people and displacing nearly a half a million, officials said. Hundreds of mud and tin homes in the impoverished nation were destroyed.

The storm, which made landfall during the afternoon had winds with speeds of between 62 and 88 kilometers per hour (38 and 55 miles per hour) and has a 54-square-kilometer (21 square-mile) center.

Five people reportedly died due to gusting winds and downpours in the coastal areas ahead of the storm.

"A mother and her young child were killed after a landslide buried their hillside home at Sitakundu in Chittagong. The landslide was caused by heavy rains," Shah Alam, a police inspector, told news agency AFP.

Two people were killed by falling trees late on Friday in the Bhola district, while one woman died under a flattened house, according to officials.

Meteorologists issued warnings of possible landslides in the southeastern hill districts, while sea and river ports were shut down.

Mass coastal evacuations

Nearly 2.1 million people living in 18 coastal districts along Bangladesh have been told to be prepared to move if necessary to more than 3,500 cyclone shelters, Disaster Management Secretary Shah Kamal said.

Meteorologists warned that a possible storm surge of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) could flood towns along the coast - prompting authorities to move tens of thousands to cyclone shelters.

"More than 55,000 volunteers are ready to evacuate the coastal residents vulnerable to cyclone," Kamal said Friday.

Heavy rains brought on by the storm

triggered two landslides

in Sri Lanka this week, killing around 150 people and forcing over 223,000 from their homes.

Bangladesh has been one of the countries hit hardest by natural disasters in recent years. Over 3,000 people perished in Cyclone Sidr in 2007, while 200 lives were lost to Cyclone Aila in 2009.

rs/tj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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