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Cyclone More Likely to Hit Burma Than Bangladesh

A cyclone is moving towards Burma, but it has the people of Bangladesh on edge, as well. Nargis is the first cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal since Sidr, which killed thousands of people in Bangladesh, last November. News of the approaching cyclone is already causing some alarmed Bangladeshis to take cover. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from our South Asia Bureau in New Delhi.

Satellite images of the Bay of Bengal show a cyclone on track for Burma. The government in Bangladesh is warning fishermen to stay off the open sea and those living in vulnerable coastal areas to take precautions.

Nargis is categorized by the Tropical Storm Risk consortium in London as a very severe or Category One cyclone. Both the British forecasters and the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii predict the storm will make landfall on the Burmese coast Friday evening, with winds gusting to a speed of 185 kilometers per hour.

The lead scientist at the British center, Mark Saunders, says the prospects of Nargis turning into a super cyclone are about one in three.

"In southern Burma, I think the chances of anything as catastrophic as Sidr last November are low. Sidr was a Category Four which was winds of over 250 kilometers per hour," Saunders said.

Although the storm is on target to hit Burma, there is also significant concern in Bangladesh. The country, now in the midst of a critical rice harvest, saw more than three thousand people die and 2.5 million others made homeless when Sidr struck.

Masud Siddiqui is the director general of the Disaster Management Bureau in Dhaka.

"Our experts are saying that the eye of the cyclone is very messy now. So, we're not sure it's going to hit Bangladesh," ," Siddiqui said. "And, we've asked the deputy commissioner at this moment not to evacuate people to shelters because it's a huge operation and it creates panic to the people."

However, local media report many panicky residents, with memories of last year's cyclone still fresh, have already taken refuge in schools and other designated shelters.