“The next 24 hours are very important.”
Bridges swept away. Phones and power off. Early reports of death.
An ambitious evacuation measure and the weakening of Cyclone Amphan when it swirled ashore seem to have saved many lives.
But the authorities in India and Bangladesh were waiting for daybreak to see how bad things were.
“The next 24 hours are very important,”
The cyclone washed away bridges that connect the Indian islands to the mainland and left many areas without utilities, West Bengali Prime Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters on Wednesday evening. Ms. Banerjee said that a clearer picture of the devastation would emerge by Thursday, but there had been at least seven deaths, the A.P.
A few days ago, meteorologists called the cyclone one of the most dangerous storms in decades.
Cyclone lands and hits the Indian coast during a pandemic.
The cyclone amphan struck the Indian coast on Wednesday afternoon, felling huge trees, bringing rain ropes and sending millions of poor villagers to evacuation shelters.
The emergency response was aggravated by the coronavirus. India and Bangladesh are still blocked, and many people living on India and the marshy Bangladeshi coast have been afraid to pack into crowded emergency shelters where the likelihood of infection could be much higher.
“First Covid-19, now Cyclone,” was the headline of Indian broadcaster NDTV on Wednesday evening.
The storm landed around 4 p.m. near the Indian city of Digha on the east coast with wind speeds between 100 and 115 miles per hour. Meteorologists called amphan, which is powered by the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, one of the strongest hurricanes in decades.
Indian television stations showed pictures of frothy waves that shattered the walls and trees. The wind blew some buildings apart and Indian news media reported that at least two people were killed, including one A child who died after a mud wall collapsed on him.
An official of the aid organization in Cox ‘Bazar in Bangladesh, near which one million Rohingya refugees are stuck in muddy camps. posted videos of heavy rain flow down between residential buildings.
The storm has been predicted to sweep across the ecologically fragile Sundarbans region between the Indian state of West Bengal and the Hatiya Islands in Bangladesh. Many rare animals live in the region, including Bengal tigers.
It was also predicted to destroy Kolkata, one of India’s largest and most historic cities, the first major capital during the British colonial period and full of old and fragile buildings. On Wednesday night, reports on social media and TV channels showed countless power cables and lamp posts shorted in the city streets and winds so strong that reporters had trouble keeping on air.
India and neighboring Bangladesh are both struggling with increasing coronavirus infections. Just this week, India reported that it had exceeded 100,000 infections. Before Cyclone Amphan appeared on India’s radar screen, the authorities there decided to use hundreds of temporary shelters for other purposes and convert them to Covid-19 quarantine centers so that they had fewer shelters at the time of a cyclone.
The authorities are trying not to fill the shelters fully – some can accommodate thousands. But many shelters are filled with people from wall to wall. However, due to fears of getting the corona virus, many villagers were reluctant to take refuge in the crowded shelters.
What do you do if your shelters pose your own risk?
That was the problem of the officials preparing to attack Amphan.
South Asia is no stranger to cyclones, but it was faced with an additional challenge: protecting people from coronavirus infection while they were in emergency shelters.
Around three million people in India and Bangladesh were evacuated to cyclone shelters. Some of these structures are huge and hold up to 5,000 people.
While some have been kept only half full due to concerns about social distancing, others are wall to wall with people.
And there are fewer shelters in India than for past storms. Hundreds were repurposed two weeks ago before the cyclone even hit India’s radar screens and became Covid 19 quarantine centers.
In Nedhuali, a village on the Indian coast, police officers went from mud house to mud house with clasped hands and urged residents to get to the emergency shelters. But many villagers refused and said they were afraid of getting sick.
“We are waging war on two fronts,” said Rajesh Pandit, a police officer in the area. “First to evacuate people and then to make sure they don’t get the infection.”
Bangladesh has more than 4,000 special cyclone shelters. The authorities have also cleared schools and government buildings to house more than two million people who are expected to evacuate.
“Many people are not aware of social distancing and hygiene,” said Sharif-ul-Islam, a government official in Bangladesh. “Our priority is to educate them and try to protect them.”
Abdur Rahim, a Rohingya refugee, has hardly slept in the past few days.
While Cyclone Amphan travels to Bangladesh, Mr. Rahim and about a million other Rohingya Muslims who live in refugee camps along the coast are preparing for the worst.
The residents store food and wrap personal documents in plastic. Humanitarian groups place rubber dinghies in the camps to prepare for multi-foot storm surges. Government officials secure steep, muddy slopes with concrete and bamboo to protect landslides from the rain.
Mr. Rahim, 39, who lives with his wife and six children in the Kutupalong refugee camp near the city of Cox’s Bazar, said he and his neighbors were afraid to leave their homes.
With gusts of wind that are expected to reach 100 miles per hour, Many Rohingya fear that their makeshift can and tarpaulin shelters could be blown away. And in the past few days The first cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the camps, making the relief efforts even more fearful and dangerous.
Bangladeshi Catholic Aid Director Snigdha Chakraborty said the limited health facilities and poor infrastructure on the coast suggested “a grim picture for the days ahead.”
“There are no evacuation shelters in the camps and we are concerned about flood damage, wind damage and the risk of Covid-19 as resources are depleted,” she said.
Kolkata, one of India’s largest and most historic cities, full of graceful buildings that are hundreds of years old, is right on the way from Cyclone Amphan. The streets were deserted on Wednesday afternoon.
“Nobody is out there,” said Jawhar Sircar, a retired government administrator who lives in the Gariahat district. He said the sky was gray and it was drizzling outside, “like in London”.
In this case, precautions for coronaviruses appear to be helpful. Many of the approximately 15 million people who live in the Kolkata metropolitan region have already been at home and adhered to the Indian blocking rules.
Nevertheless, the Kolkata officials took no chances. They cleared storm surges, supported slum huts with bamboo poles and removed objects such as potted plants from roofs and balconies so that they did not become missiles.
Kolkata was the capital of British India from 1772 to 1911 until New Delhi was elected. It is usually spared by cyclones as it is more than 50 miles inland from the Bay of Bengal. “The British wanted security from the turbulent sea weather,” said Sircar.
On Wednesday afternoon the turbulent weather went straight towards the city. Anand Sharma, director of the Indian Weather Department, told NDTV that most of the typhoon was a little further from Calcutta, but the winds would hit the city in Bangladesh until Thursday morning.
On Indian television, residents shared pictures of fallen lampposts and trees, and reported that many homes had been flooded.
Experts say that the Sundarbans – the largest mangrove forest in the world in a huge delta that is home to several hundred animal species – could act as a buffer against the cyclone if it strikes, slows wind speed and protects the villages from the worst effects.
But around 70 percent of the 4,000 square mile forest that stretches across the border between India and Bangladesh is only a few meters above sea level. Heavy rains and floods could have deadly consequences for rare animals that push them from their habitats into areas inhabited by humans.
“The Sundarbans will bear the brunt and mitigate the blow,” said Prerna Singh Bindra, conservationist and author of The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis.
The cyclone amphan poses a particular risk to the few hundred Bengal tigers in the region, one of the largest remaining populations of wild tigers in the world. Habitat loss, hunting and illegal trade in animal parts have devastated the world’s tiger population – now estimated at less than 4,000, compared to around 100,000 a century ago.
“Big and small animals are affected when the cyclone hits hard,” said Philip Gain, director of the Society for Environment and Human Development, a non-profit organization in Bangladesh that works for environmental justice.
What turns a storm into a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone? It depends on the location. They all refer to tropical cyclones – circular low-pressure tower systems with wind speeds of more than 74 miles per hour, which form over warm water – but Different terms are used in different parts of the world.
The word hurricane is used for tropical cyclones that form in the North Atlantic, the Northeast Pacific, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Typhoons are storms that develop in the northwest Pacific and typically threaten Asia.
The international date line serves as a dividing mark for the Pacific Ocean. If a hurricane crosses it from east to west, it will instead become a typhoon and vice versa.
The same storms in the southern hemisphere are easier to keep straight. The storm amphan moves across the Bay of Bengal, which simply makes it a cyclone – the same applies to storms over the Arabian Sea, which is also found in the northern Indian Ocean. The southern Indian Ocean and the South Pacific are “tropical cyclones” or “severe tropical cyclones”.
All of these cyclone storms regulate the overall climate and transport thermal energy from the tropics to the poles.
The cyclone amphan swept across the Bay of Bengal on Monday as the strongest cyclone ever registered in the region. By Tuesday, a phenomenon called vertical wind shear – the shifting of the winds with height – had disturbed the storm’s rotation structure and weakened it.
Amphan initially became powerful because the water over which it flowed was exceptionally warm and was up to 88 degrees in parts of the Indian Ocean. Warmer water provides more energy that drives such rotating storms.
As a result of climate change, sea temperatures are rising, but other factors, including natural variability, may also play a role. While it’s not possible to say whether a particular storm like Amphan has gotten stronger due to climate change, scientists have long expected tropical storms like this to increase with increasing global warming.
This expectation was based on the laws of physics and computer climate models and not on studies of actual storms. Earlier this week, researchers in the United States used observation data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. reported that the likelihood of this type of cyclone storm becoming the equivalent of Category 3 storms has increased by about 8 percent per decade since the late 1970s.
The coverage was written by Jeffrey Gettleman, Sameer Yasir, Kai Schultz, Henry Fountain, Jennifer Jett, Hari Kumar and Elian Peltier.