Cyclone Amphan hits India and Bangladesh. At least 12 dead, millions of evacuated: “They fear contagions”


CALCUTTA Cyclone Amphan was expected and to prepare for his passage India and Bangladesh had begun evacuating millions of people for days. However, the response to the new emergency was complicated by the coronavirus. At least 12 people lost their lives and 5,500 homes were destroyed in the Indian state of West Bengal, but it is only the beginning. The cyclone is expected to hit Calcutta and the surrounding area in the evening.

The two countries are still in a state of blockade to contain the spread of the coronavirus and just this week India has exceeded 100 thousand cases of contagion. Before Cyclone Amphan arrived on the radar screen, the Indian authorities had decided to reuse the hundreds of emergency shelters and turn them into Covid 19 quarantine centers. Now, however, many people are afraid to go to crowded shelters where the chances of infection are too much high. On Indian television NDTV on Wednesday evening the headline appeared:

First Covid 19, now the cyclone

Since 1999, when Cyclone Odisha devastated the region by killing around 9,000 people, no other powerful cyclone like Amphan had ever hit the Gulf of Bengal more. According to the estimate of the director general of the Indian Meteorological Department: “Some areas 10-15 kilometers from the coast will be flooded”.

Amphan’s fury that drew strength from the warm waves in the Andaman Sea that is part of the Indian Ocean spilled onto the east coast of India around 4pm with winds of 185 kilometers per hour, he said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, general manager of the Indian Meteorological Department.

The impact on the coast, millions of evacuated

On the coast, Amphan is destroying houses by crumbling the weak mud banks that protect the houses themselves. There are at least 12 deaths, including a 70-year-old man killed by a fallen tree in the coastal district of Bhola, Bangladesh, and a child who disappeared under a mud wall.

India, Cyclone Amphan hits the Bay of Bengal

Amphan will stop for hours on the coast, perhaps five, before moving inland, weaker, perhaps just more unloaded.

About 2.4 million people living on the coast of Bangladesh have been sheltered, more than 650,000 people have been evacuated from the Indian coast to the states of West Bengal and Orissa. Bangladesh officials said they had moved hundreds of Rohingya refugees who had fled Myanmar to live on a flood hazard island in the Gulf of Bengal. The general manager of Save the Children in India Mark Pierce he said that the NGO is ready to bring aid. The organization in Bangladesh is also on the alert. The teams are able to intervene in Cox’s Bazar “where nearly one million Rohingya refugees live in fragile bamboo and tarpaulin shelters in the largest refugee settlement in the world”.

Waves 5 meters high and tigers in danger

Tsunami waves reach five meters in height and can go inside the Sundarbans Delta, inhabited by about four million people, which is home to the largest mangrove forest in the world. Classified by the WWF as an ecoregion and Unesco heritage, it is the habitat of the largest terrestrial predator on the Asian continent: the Bengal tiger.

Cyclone Amphan hits India and Bangladesh. At least 12 dead, millions of evacuated:

An NASA image obtained from Earth’s observatory shows the tropical cyclone Amphan at 16:15 world time (21:45 India solar time) on May 19 as it moved north-northeast over the Bay of Bengal. The image is a compound of the data acquired by the NASA satellite spectroradiometer (Modis). Cyclone Amphan began to form in the Andaman Sea at the end of April, the system then moved north-west, intensifying also thanks to the sea temperatures of 30 degrees, until it became the cyclone that today violently fell on Bangladesh, India and Myammar

On the island of Ghoramara in the Sundarbans, Sanjib Sagar told the Reuters that several banks around the settlements are already irreparably damaged and the floods have already begun. “Many houses have been damaged,” he said over the phone.

The cyclone hits Calcutta

The sprawling city of 4.5 million people, Calcutta, is fragile. The winds of Amphan have already started to eradicate trees and electricity poles, flooding several roads, as shown by local television images. All operations at the airport have been suspended until at least 5 pm tomorrow.

Refuges and Covid 19

There are two problems. The shelters – which would have been useful to secure the evacuated – are used for the quarantine of patients infected with the coronavirus. They are not safe places. And there is great concern about a plausible increase in infections. To protect themselves, hundreds gather in small shelters, without being able to comply with the rules of social distancing in force for a couple of months in India and Bangladesh.

Cyclone Amphan hits India and Bangladesh. At least 12 dead, millions of evacuated:

West Bengal police said many still refuse to abandon their livestock. “We literally forced people to leave their homes, put on their masks, and bring them to government buildings,” said a senior Calcutta police official.

Crops destroyed, thousands of animals moved

In Bangladesh, permanent crops could be damaged and large tracts of fertile land wiped out, officials said. Farmers are being helped to move products and hundreds of thousands of animals moved to higher land. “Fortunately, the rice crop harvest is almost complete. However, it will be inevitable that the cyclone will leave behind a trail of destruction,” he said. Mizanur Rahman Khan, high official of the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture.

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