Cyclone Amphan leaves behind trail of destruction; 12 dead
After brewing over the Bay of Bengal for some days, the severe cyclonic storm, Cyclone Amphan, made landfall on Wednesday, battering parts of West Bengal and Odisha. Fragile homes were flattened, trees uprooted, and heavy storms accompanied torrential rain. At least 12 people died, with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calling it a worse disaster than the coronavirus pandemic. Here's more.
The cyclone crossed Bengal-Bangladesh coast between Digha (Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) across Sunderbans between 3:30 and 5:30 pm, said the Indian Meteorological Department. The wind speed was between 155 and 165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph. While Odisha was spared the destruction, the cyclone destroyed Bengal's deltaic regions and urban places surrounding capital Kolkata. Dark clouds were seen in the sky.
"It's an intense and devastating storm. It is a multi-hazard scenario with heavy rain, strong winds, and tidal surge all at the same time. It must have inundated large areas," said M Mohapatra, the chief of IMD. At least 658,000 were evacuated from both states.
Videos from Kolkata that surfaced on social media showed the extent of the damage. Electric poles were uprooted and power cuts were reported from various areas. Strong winds overturned vehicles and branches of trees dotted the streets. In one horrifying clip, a transformer exploded due to heavy rains. Shops in the iconic Bada Bazaar were flooded, and so were residential areas.
THIS- Visuals from Howrah bridge, when #CycloneAmphan had hit Kolkata.— Zeba Warsi (@Zebaism) May 21, 2020
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said atleast 12 people have died due to its impact.
Praying for Bengal and Odisha. pic.twitter.com/E5JufuYhPR
Tuhin Ghosh, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University, said the losses happened at three levels. "Loss to life and property because storm was tremendous; loss to basic infrastructure, which will take months to leap back, and thirdly, loss to livelihoods due to saline water intrusion and large-scale inundation," he said. Banerjee claimed the damages amount to Rs. 1 lakh crore.
Banerjee asked residents to not step outside their homes for 12 days, considering the huge devastation. "Bridges and embankments in the Sunderbans have been damaged," she said. Reportedly, embankment breaks were reported from Sagar Island, Ramganga, and Hingalganj. The continuous downpour made it impossible to reach worst-hit areas. In the morning, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams got busy with restoration work.
In neighboring Odisha, the landfall wasn't as disastrous. Parts of the state witnessed rains and winds. But this morning, shops opened in Patrapada area of Balasore. About the cyclone's trajectory, IMD said, "Cyclone Amphan moved north-northeastwards with a speed of 27 kmph during past 6 hours, further weakened into a cyclonic storm and lay centered over Bangladesh, about 270 km north-northeast of Kolkata."
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many refused to be evacuated to congested shelter homes, personnel in both states said. "There were some people who refused to move to cyclone shelters. We first tried to convince them. When it didn't work we used force," a block development officer at South 24 Parganas said. To note, the deadly virus has claimed 3,434 lives in India.