Cyclone Mora has left a trail of destruction in southern Bangladesh, killing at least three people and flattening homes. Hundreds of thousands of people had to be moved from low-lying coastal areas.
Cyclone Mora lashed Bangladesh's southeast coast early Tuesday, packing storm surges and gusts of more than 135 kilometers (85 miles) per hour, officials said.
The low-lying delta nation had bumped up its weather danger alert to its highest level and moved more than 450,000 people to shelters as the storm approached.
Ali Hossain, chief government administrator in hard-hit Cox's Bazar, said at least three people had died and some 20,000 homes destroyed. "We are estimating actual losses, but we don't expect huge casualties," he said.
Refugee homes 'flattened'
The tropical storm flattened thousands of temporary huts in camps for Rohingya refugees who had fled violence in neighboring Myanmar, Rohingya officials told Reuters. Around 200,000 people from the Muslim minority were being sheltered in the coastal Cox's Bazar district, which bore the brunt of the damage.
Omar Farukh, a community leader in Kutapalong refugee camp, said conditions were dire: "Now we're in the open air."
Mohammad Anam, a Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh last year, told Agence France Presse there had been no attempt to evacuate the community. "Nobody came to alert or evacuate us. When the storm came we rushed to local schools to take shelter," he said.
Some low-lying areas around the main port city of Chittagong - home to millions of people - were inundated by storm surges, authorities said. They added, however, that the storm was not as bad as they had anticipated.
Cyclone Mora formed as a result of monsoon rains that triggered floods and landslides in Sri Lanka, killing at least 180 people in recent days. The storm weakened later Tuesday as it moves towards India, where weather authorities warned of heavy rain and strong winds.
Bangladesh is frequently hit by deadly storms between April and December. Twenty people were killed when Cyclone Roanu hit the southern coast in May last year. Cyclone Sidr in 2007 killed nearly 4,000 people.
"This time we are more prepared," disaster management authority spokesman Abul Hashim said.
nm/rg (AFP, Reuters, AP)