Hundreds of thousands evacuated in Bangladesh and India before Hurricane Bulbul

 Bangladesh and India have evacuated hundreds of thousands of people to shelters as a strong cyclone in the Bay of Bengal heads for the coasts of the two neighbors.

Bangladesh has evacuated more than 300,000 people to shelters, officials said Saturday, as it planned to resettle some 1.8 million coastal residents while India relocated about 120,000 people.

"More people will be relocated to shelters. We hope to be able to move all affected people to a safe place," said Inamur Rahman, Bangladesh's Minister of State for Disaster Management.

Cyclone Bulbul, with winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, is likely to blow near the Sundarbans forest of mangroves that span both countries.

The Indian Meteorological Department said the hurricane was likely to weaken from "very severe" to "severe" because it crossed the coast at wind speeds of 110 to 120 kilometers per hour.

The low-lying areas of coastal areas and off-shore islands may face a storm that is causing a tsunami two meters above normal, said meteorologist Ruhul Quddus.

The meteorologist said Bangladesh was expected to see heavy rains accompanied by winds of 120 kilometers per hour during the storm.

Television footage showed volunteers using loudspeakers to call on coastal residents to go to shelters.

The coastal areas of eastern India have already seen heavy rains due to the storm.

Officials and news reports said flights had been suspended and the Indian navy was on standby for relief operations.

A powerful cyclone devastated southeastern parts of Bangladesh on April 29, 1991, killing more than 100,000 people and displacing millions.

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