A powerful cyclone pounded eastern India and Bangladesh, killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of homes, leaving authorities struggling to mount relief efforts amid a surging coronavirus outbreak.
Amphan made landfall at 5:30 PM local time on Wednesday in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal and passed through the densely populated city of Kolkata. Strong winds upturned cars, felled trees and electricity poles, cutting off power supply to some parts of the city.
Authorities in both countries managed to evacuate more than three million people and moved them to storm shelters before Amphan struck. But the evacuation effort was focused on communities that lay directly in the cyclone’s path, leaving villages on the flanks still vulnerable.
“Devastation is huge. Many villages are flooded. It tore off tin roofs, snapped power lines and uprooted trees,” said Mohammad Asaduzzaman, a senior police official in the Satkhira district of Bangladesh.
As Amphan travelled across the open ocean it packed a maximum sustained wind speed of 269 kph, according to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS). Data from International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship indicates the storm is the most powerful since 1991, though it weakened after it hit land.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she dreaded the cost of repairing property and infrastructure wrecked by Amphan.
“Area after area has been devastated. Communications are disrupted,” she said. “We do not know if the damages will run into thousands of millions of rupees [and] will take three, four days to fully assess the extent of damage.”
International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship; Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS); Joint Research Centre, European Commission; WorldPop Project, University of Southampton (www.worldpop.org); Himawari-8 Satellite imagery via National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Japan.
By Anand Katakam, Gurman Bhatia and Simon Scarr. Additional reporting by Subrata Nagchoudhary, Ruma Paul Editing by Andrew Heavens