India and Bangladesh have evacuated millions of people from the path of the strongest storm in 20 years, which is expected to occur on Wednesday evening and raise concerns about significant damage to houses and crops, as well as disruption to road, rail and electricity connections.
The authorities’ attempt to save lives has been hampered by continued efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic and enforce social distance.
From the Bay of Bengal, the super cyclone amphan should hit the coast of East India and southern Bangladesh with gusts of up to 185 kilometers per hour – this corresponds to a Category 5 hurricane.
Al Jazeeras Tanvir Chowdhury, who reports from Dhaka, said the cyclone is expected to land on the southeastern coastal belt of Bangladesh.
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“There are shelters for at least five million people and there is a medical team, a rescue team, a coast guard and the Navy who have been placed on alert in the coastal areas,” he said.
“This would be one of the biggest cyclones, so they take it very seriously.”
The Indian weather department predicted a storm surge of 3 to 4 meters of waves – the height of a two-story house – that could flood mud flats along the coast, uproot communication towers, and flood streets and railroad tracks.
Standing crops and plantations in the states of West Bengal and Odisha are being severely damaged, while large boats and ships could be torn from their berths, the weather service said in a bulletin late Tuesday.
The authorities quickly re-used the quarantine facilities for the impending cyclone shortly after the world’s largest blockage against the corona virus was released. India has reported more than 100,000 cases with 3,163 deaths.
“Crisis over a crisis”
Railway officials led a series of trains that carried thousands of migrant workers from the capital city of New Delhi to the eastern states, away from the cyclone route where they had lost their jobs due to coronavirus barriers.
“We only have about six hours to evacuate people from their homes, and we also have to comply with social distance standards,” SG Rai, a civil protection officer, told Reuters.
“The cyclone could wash away thousands of huts and standing crops.”
According to Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister of West Bengal, about 300,000 people were taken to storm shelters. The state capital, Kolkata, is near the cyclone route and there have been concerns about the people who live in some 1,500 old, dilapidated buildings.
Pankaj Anand from the Oxfam humanitarian group in India described Amphan as “a crisis over a crisis”.
“Many of the cyclone evacuation shelters are already being used as coronavirus quarantine centers or as migrant shelters that have returned to their coastal communities due to closures. People fear that there will be insufficient space in the shelters and that they may catch coronavirus.” . “
Drag to a higher level
Neighboring Bangladesh, where the cyclone posed a devastating threat along a deep, swampy coastline, brought hundreds of thousands of people to a higher level.
According to Oxfam, there are fears that up to 1.4 million people will be displaced by the cyclone and 600,000 houses could be destroyed.
The Bangladeshi authorities also called for masks to be used against the virus, which caused 20,995 infections and 314 deaths.
“We have taken the necessary steps so that people can keep their distance and wear masks,” said Enamur Rahman, the junior minister for disaster management. He said 12,000 cyclone shelters have been set up to accommodate more than five million people.
Bangladeshi officials said the cyclone could trigger tidal waves and heavy rains and floods.
It was expected to hit land between the Chittagong and Khulna districts, just 150 km from refugee camps that house more than a million Rohingya in vulnerable shelters.
Aid workers have stored emergency items such as food, tarpaulins and water purification tablets.
“We are really very concerned,” said Haiko Magtrayo, a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the nearby town of Cox’s Bazar.
Hundreds of other Rohingya rescued from boats floating in the Bay of Bengal live on the flood-prone island of Bhasan Char.
“It is already a major challenge to curb the spread of the coronavirus among Rohingya refugees who live in overcrowded camps and share water and toilet facilities. The cyclone amphan is also a major threat to the millions of vulnerable Bangladeshis who live in the deep “Coastal areas at risk of flooding live,” said Dipankar Datta, Country Director of Oxfam in Bangladesh, in a statement.