Super cyclone Amphan has wrecked havoc in the Indian state of West Bengal, especially the state capital Kolkata, and the southwestern part of the neighboring country Bangladesh after the Amphan made landfall in West Bengal. The death toll, yet to be counted finally, in both the countries is over 20.

The Amphan became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal on Monday night, though it has since weakened slightly. The cyclone made landfall near Sagar Island in West Bengal, close to the Bangladeshi border around 5 p.m. local time with sustained winds of 160 kilometers per hour, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center, making it equivalent in intensity to a category 2 Atlantic hurricane.

Bangladesh and Indian authorities evacuated millions of people from the coastal regions of respective countries. Evacuations have been complicated due to the coronavirus pandemic, as authorities attempted to maintain strict social distancing rules.

Bangladesh authorities evacuated more than 2 million people from 19 coastal districts to cyclone shelters.

Officials in Bhadrak, a city in the Indian state of Odisha, evacuated 218 pregnant women from the area’s coastal villages to health centers. 60 of the evacuated women gave birth on May 19 and 20 under special medical care.

The Amphan made landfall in eastern India, near the Bangladeshi border, on Wednesday, May 20, and drenched parts of the Bangladesh-India border with heavy rains.

Powerful winds, meters-high coastal surge and heavy rain made significant damage in some places. Many low-lying coastal islands of Bangladesh were inundated by meters-high sea surge.

Almost every one of Bangladesh’s coastal areas have been affected by the storm. Nearly every coastal district in Bangladesh has been seriously affected by the Amphan. The damage along the coast was “huge.”

First responders are having trouble getting in touch with their counterparts due to serious communication disruptions caused by the storm in certain parts of West Bengal.

The Amphan brought down power and phone lines in various parts of the state when the storm made landfall.

12 fatalities so far in W Bengal, but more could be coming

At least a dozen people have been killed by the storm so far, according to the chief minister of West Bengal, Ms Mamata Banerjee. The death toll could rise as first responders go town-by-town to assess the damage.

All the reported deaths took place in West Bengal, according to Mamata Banerjee.

Bangladesh media primarily reported similar death figures. One source cited the figure primarily 12.

Reports by Daily Star, a Dhaka daily, said:

Nine people have been killed in seven districts of Bangladesh. An embankment in Sharankhola upazila of Bagerhat has collapsed in many places. As a result, low-lying areas of multiple villages in the area were flooded, reports our Bagerhat correspondent. Many trees and houses were destroyed along with the embankment due to the cyclonic storm. More than 500 fish farms were also submerged, locals said. Around 10.5 million consumers around the country were out of electricity coverage. Most districts of Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions faced power outage around Wednesday midnight. Restoration works in Khulna, Bagherhat, Sathkhira, Barishal, Patuakhali, Pirojpur, Lakshmipur, Jashore, Barguna and Noakhali districts, which have been without electricity coverage since Wednesday evening, and the northern districts were yet to be completed. In many places, electric poles were broken and wires torn by falling trees and transformers exploded.

Thousands of makeshift homes in densely populated areas of Bangladesh were uprooted by the storm’s powerful winds.

One part of West Bengal was “pulverized” by Amphan

A district in the Indian state of West Bengal was “pulverized” by Cyclone Amphan, according to the head of the Indian National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

The district of Sundarbans was hit with “maximum impact,” while the storm brought winds to Kolkata the likes of which the city had never seen. A lot of trees have been uprooted in the city.

It will be some time before West Bengal is up and running again. Normal operations are expected to resume in the four least affected coastal districts in four to six days.

Indian migrant workers stranded

Thousands of Indian migrant workers attempting to return home to Odisha state remain stranded after the cyclone forced the cancelation of special trains to the region.

Special trains had been designated to take the workers home, but 15 scheduled to run along Odisha’s coastal region were suspended from May 19 to 21.

Of Odisha’s 809 permanent cyclone shelters, 211 are currently being used as COVID-19 quarantine centers. Schools and colleges were converted to fill that gap.

The Amphan packed winds of up to 110 kph, and then the storm weakened as it moved further inland in West Bengal, moved over Bangladesh.

The storm will continue to weaken and rain itself out over the next 24 hours as it travels northeast toward the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain range that will act as a natural barrier, absorbing the storm, which in turn, could result in new snow being formed.

More rain is expected over the next two days, perhaps as much as 100 to 200 millimeters in Bangladesh and perhaps 300 to 400 mm in parts of eastern India. The risk of flooding will remain high throughout the next five days, especially as the moisture from Amphan that moved up to the Himalayas and trickles back down through the Ganges River Delta.

Amphan bigger disaster than coronavirus, says W Bengal’s chief minister

Cyclone Amphan is a disaster bigger than Covid-19, said Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal.

“The whole of the southern part of the state has been affected. We are shocked. It will take three to four days to assess the damage,” the chief minister said Wednesday at a news conference.

“The cyclone has affected the electricity supply and destroyed many houses, bridges and embankments,” she added.

Fallen power lines could complicate relief efforts. Disaster response officials will likely need to go town-by-town to assess the damage, as heavy rains continue to fall on hard-hit areas.

Trail of destruction

The cyclone, whose eye was about 30 kilometer in diameter, has left a trail of destruction in West Bengal and Odisha, destroying thousands of houses, damaging buildings, uprooting trees, electricity poles.

Kolkata widely devastated

Kolkata has been widely devastated by the Amphan.

Six hours of the Amphan’s wrecking winds left Kolkata airport, which remained shut, flooded and many structures within damaged. Two hangars in the airport have been damaged beyond repair, but the hangers were unused, airport officials said.

Parked cars bump into each other, heavy rain and strong winds pound Kolkata as the Amphan battered Kolkata, videos show. Strong winds upturned cars and felled trees and electricity poles in Kolkata. Parts of the city were plunged into darkness. Much of the city and its neighboring districts have been without electricity for 17 hours. Mobile phone networks were not working in some of the worst hit areas. The cyclone uprooted trees, lampposts and traffic lights. The streets were waterlogged.

Kolkata and several other districts faced power outages at night, with power supply restored only late at night. Howling winds banged against doors, broke glass windows and uprooted trees.

“Area after area has been ruined. I have experienced a war-like situation today,” Ms Banerjee was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

Dramatic visuals recorded by residents and shared on social media showed electricity transformers exploding in busy neighborhoods as the storm swept the city.

Images of water logged streets, vehicles crushed under fallen trees and broken river jetties were also all over local media.

One Kolkata resident, who lives on the 12th floor of a high-rise building in the city, said his building seemed to be “swaying from side to side, mimicking an earthquake”.

“Sounds of tortured metal, glass breaking. Palm trees uprooted. Power lines came crackling and spitting at three places nearby,” he wrote.

Most people were home when the storm struck. The city is in lockdown because of the pandemic, and officials had also been preparing for the cyclone for days.

The Telegraph newspaper said Calcutta’s waterlogged roads “looked like a dark and slithering reptile on Wednesday night as howling winds continued to haunt the city’s deserted, Amphan-ravaged corridors”.

Coronavirus restrictions have been hampering emergency and relief efforts.

The storm is the first super cyclone to form in the Bay of Bengal since 1999. Though its winds have now weakened, it is still classified as a very severe cyclone.

Cyclone Amphan is only the second “super cyclone” to form over the Bay of Bengal since records began, and the first since 1999. Odisha was hit by a super cyclone that left nearly 10,000 dead in 1999.

“Amphan”, pronounced as “Um-pun”, means sky. The name was given by Thailand in 2004.

Road clearance, restoration work underway in W Bengal

The NDRF Director-General SN Pradhan tweeted photographs of restoration work by the NDRF personnel at various locations in West Bengal, including North 24 Parganas, Purba Medinipur, Howrah, Kolkata and South 24 Parganas.


SIGN UP FOR COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWS LETTER