Around 9 am on May 26, Cyclone Yaas slammed into the coast in Odisha’s Bhadrak district, 50 km south of Balasore. Due to the surge in the tide as a consequence of the full moon that day, the intense cyclone ravaged the Sundarbans in neighbouring West Bengal.
Islands in the Sundarbans are a protected by embankments, which run around 3,500 km. More than 134 embankments were breached, the state government said, devastating many villages. As the embankments were damaged, previous farmland was destroyed as saline water flooded in.
Tens of thousands of homes in the region were damaged, as were livestock and poultry farms. The West Bengal government estimated by the cost of damages caused by Cyclone Yaas at Rs 20,000 crore.
Rising sea-surface temperatures may be the cause of the more frequent, intense cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, scientists say. Since 2007, there have been 16 major cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. Many islands in the Sundarbans, such as Mousuni, were already facing the threat due to the rapid sea-level rise.
Even four days after the cyclone receded, villagers in across the region claimed they have not seen any visits of government officials.
Three days after the cyclone, boys stand on an embankment that has been broken due to the high tidal waters in the aftermath of Cyclone Yaas in Gosaba in the Sundarbans.
The day after the disaster, children in Dhamakhali in the Sundarbans on a road near a broken embankment.
In Dhamakhali on May 27, a family heads towards an elevated shelter as the whole village has flooded in the aftermath of Cyclone Yaas.
Villagers from Gosaba island in the Sundarbans take their livestock to higher land as the village had flooded in the aftermath of Cyclone Yaas. Many domestic animals died in the flood. Some residents sold their surviving livestock at distress prices.
A man transports canisters of potable water to Rampur Dhamakhali. The flood of saline water left drinking water sources unusable.
A man walks through floodwaters in Mousuni island in the Sundarbans on May 28. Even before the cyclone, the island was already facing threats from rising sea levels rise and had already lost kilometres of land.
A woman in Baliara on Mousuni Island tries to recover her belongings from a ruined house after the water receded during low tide on May 27.
Akhtarun Bibi, aged 38, near her home on Mousuni island on May 27. The previous day, as water surged in during high tide, she had fallen into the water “It was early in the morning and I was lucky that my sister had seen me,” she said. “Villagers saw her calling for help and finally were able to rescue me, using ropes.”
Sekh Habib, aged 41, inspects the ruins of his home in Baliara, Mousuni, on May 28.
A woman on Mousuni island dries rice that had been soaked in the flood water. Like many of her neighbours, she wasn’t able to recovery much of the food from her stores.
Sampada Patra, aged 63, looks at his farm in Gosaba, Sundarbans on May 29, which has been destroyed by the floods. He said he had lost more than 20 acres of land in his lifetime.
Kasher Molla at his poultry firm in Rampur, Dhamakhali, on May 27.
On 27 May, residents of Dhamakhali were repairing embankments on their own.
Women are seen carrying materials to help repair an embankment in Gosaba in the Sundarbans on May 29.
Avijit Ghosh is a Kolkata-based independent documentary photographer working on the socio-economical impact of climate change.