Cyclone Amphan, which made landfall in West Bengal’s Digha on Wednesday evening, has killed 21 people so far in India and Bangladesh, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday. Twelve people were killed in West Bengal, two in Odisha and seven in Bangladesh.
Among those dead in Bangladesh are a five-year-old boy and a 75-year-old man, who were crushed under falling trees. In Odisha, one of the deceased was an infant, who died when the mud wall of the family’s hut collapsed due to heavy rain.
The cyclone made landfall at 2.30 pm between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya island in Bangladesh, PTI reported. It immediately flattened houses, uprooted trees and electric poles.
Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba reviewed the situation in the cyclone-hit areas of West Bengal and Odisha, along with state and central ministries on Thursday, ANI reported. Gauba ordered that officers of the central ministries and agencies should remain in touch with the governments of West Bengal and Odisha and provide all assistance expeditiously.
The Centre said that the home ministry will send out teams to assess the damage and submit a report. The West Bengal government told the Centre that there was major damage to agriculture, power, and telecommunication facilities in cyclone-affected areas. On the other hand, the Odisha government said that damage has been mainly limited to agriculture.
The National Disaster Response Force is moving more teams to West Bengal, to speed up restoration work, especially in Kolkata, the Centre said. It ordered the Food Corporation of India to ensure adequate supply of food grains to the state so that marooned people can be provided assistance.
“It’s a massive challenge for NDRF to carry out restoration work in view of Covid-19,” Director General SN Pradhan told ANI. “But our teams were semi-prepared for Amphan as they were preparing for combination of Covid-19 and floods. Our personnel observe protocols of social distancing and sanitisation.”
‘Cyclone worse than coronavirus’: Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday that the cyclone’s impact on the state was worse than that of the coronavirus, and claimed the damages would be around Rs 1 lakh crore. “Area after area has been devastated,” she said, according to NDTV. “Communications are disrupted.” She added that though five lakh people have been evacuated, state authorities had not entirely anticipated the ferocity of the cyclone. The chief minister also said that the hardest-hit areas were not accessible.
Banerjee spent the entire day at a control room in Kolkata, The Indian Express reported. “On one hand we are fighting with Covid-19, on the other hand lakhs of migrants are coming back,” she said. “Over all this now the cyclone. I think that this is a disaster bigger than Covid-19. I would request [the Centre] please forget politics and cooperate with us and save the people.”
In Kolkata, strong winds upturned cars and felled trees and electricity poles. The streets were flooded, and several areas of the city lost electric supply. Though the storm abated, the devastation was to be seen on Thursday morning too, ANI reported.
Pradhan said restoration work is under way in Kolkata, the Hindustan Times reported.
The India Meteorological Department said on Thursday morning that the cyclone has moved north-northeastwards at a wind speed of 30 km per hour over the past six hours, and is likely to weaken into a deep depression over the next three hours.
The Odisha government on Wednesday evening asked district collectors to submit damage assessment reports within 48 hours, Sambad English reported. “We have asked the district collectors to submit primary reports within 48 hours following which the authorities have to submit a final report,” Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Jena said. “Once we get the preliminary reports, we can precisely say what is the amount to be required and the timeframe for restoration.”
Jena said that apart from damage to electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, trees have been uprooted in several districts, and agriculture and horticulture crops have been spoilt. Jena said over 1.5 lakh people have been evacuated from low-lying areas.
On social media, many people posted tweets of the devastation caused by the cyclone:
The IMD has issued rain alerts in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. “Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places very likely over the western districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya on 21st May,” said a release from the Regional Meteorological Centre in Guwahati. “Squally wind, speed reaching 30 to 40 km per hour gusting to 50 km per hour very likely over Meghalaya and West Assam during next 12 hours.”
The Vice President’s Secretariat issued a statement on behalf of Venkaiah Naidu expressing grief over the deaths of 21 people. “Deeply anguished by the loss of lives and devastation caused to crops and public and private properties by Amphan cyclone in West Bengal and Odisha,” Naidu said. He praised the state governments for timely evacuation of lakhs of people to safer places and undertaking rescue and relief operations with the help of the NDRF.
The seven people who died in Bangladesh were from Barguna, Satkhira, Pirojpur, Bhola and Patuakhali districts, reported the Dhaka Tribune. Bangladesh has shifted over 20 lakh people to storm shelters and deployed the military to deal with the situation.
Nearly 2 crore children could be at risk: UNICEF
The United Nations Children’s Fund said on Thursday that at least 1.9 crore children in parts of India and Bangladesh are at risk from flash flooding and heavy rain, PTI reported. UNICEF also expressed concern that the coronavirus pandemic could deepen the humanitarian consequences of the cyclone, as evacuees who have moved to crowded temporary shelters would be especially vulnerable to the spread of the disease.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely,” UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Jean Gough said. “The safety of children and their families in the areas that will be impacted is a priority and it is good to see that the authorities have planned their urgent response factoring in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Across the region, the UNICEF is working closely with the governments of Bangladesh and India...”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said at a daily press briefing that UN teams on the ground are working with the Bangladesh government to prepare and support those in need in the wake of the cyclone.