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Heavy rains in India and Bangladesh as super cyclone bears down

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A man covers himself with a plastic sheet and walks in the rain

"Amphan" has visited the state a year after cyclone Fani barrelled through vast parts of Odisha on May 3, claiming at least 64 lives and destroying vital infrastructure.

There were also concerns for hundreds of Rohingya thought to be out at sea in rickety boats that have been denied entry by Thailand and Malaysia in recent weeks because of coronavirus restrictions.

This would be the first super cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 super cyclone that killed more than 9,000 people.

The department also pointed that Super cyclone Amphan centred at 7.30 a.m. on May 20, 2020, as an extremely severe cyclonic storm over northwest Bay of Bengal about, 125 km almost east-southeast of Paradip, 225 km south of Digha and 380 km southwest of Khepupara in Bangladesh.

Over five lakh people have been taken to shelters in West Bengal and over one lakh in Odisha, the National Disaster Response Force (NRDF) chief said today in a press briefing.

Meteorologists said Amphan had caused large-scale damage with tidal waves, severe flooding and mudslides in the Sundarbans area. "We don't know how to handle it", India's West Bengal state leader Mamata Banerjee told reporters. They spoke of flooded homes, electricity transformers exploding and power cuts. I have been prepared for a while.

The UN and human rights groups are also gravely anxious for hundreds of Rohingya refugees who they believe could be on boats in the Bay of Bengal, and possibly in the storm's path, after trying to flee to Malaysia and Thailand but being blocked by authorities in those countries from landing. "There is no power at the moment".

Thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilised across India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to share early warning messages, help communities prepare and support evacuations where needed.

Satellite image released by NASA shows Cyclone Amphan over the Bay of Bengal in India
Cyclone Amphan brewed in the Bay of Bengal to become one of the strongest storms to hit the region in years

Bangladesh has reported two other deaths - both caused by falling trees. "Cyclone Amphan is also a major threat to the millions of vulnerable Bangladeshis living in low-lying flood-prone coastal areas", Dipankar Datta, country director of Oxfam in Bangladesh said in a statement.

"Our biggest challenge is going to be ensuring that the millions of people at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods get the relief and shelter they need, while doing all we can to keep them safe from the new coronavirus". Warm ocean water is where storms get their energy, and the amount of heat trapped in the top 700 metres (2,300 feet) of the seas has increased.

Bangladesh authorities had feared Amphan will be the most powerful storm front since Cyclone Sidr killed about 3,500 people in 2007.

The cyclone comes as ten of thousands of migrant workers flee cities for their villages during India's lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Orissa Post reported that the state's Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) PK Jena said the state government has made arrangements for evacuating over 11 lakh people as a precautionary measure.

It was expected to hit land between the districts of Chittagong and Khulna, just 150 km (93 miles) from refugee camps housing more than a million Rohingya in flimsy shelters.

The UN and human rights groups are also gravely anxious for Rohingya refugees who they believe could be on boats in the Bay of Bengal, and possibly in the storm's path, after trying to flee to Malaysia and Thailand but being blocked by authorities in those countries from landing.

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