Millions of people battened down Wednesday as the strongest cyclone in decades slammed into Bangladesh and eastern India, killing at least three and leaving a trail of devastation
As it made landfall, Cyclone Amphan tore through coastal villages, flattening mud houses, blowing off roofs, uprooting trees, and laying waste to crop fields. In Bangladesh, officials confirmed three deaths including a five-year-old boy and a 75-year-old man, both hit by falling trees, and a cyclone emergency volunteer who drowned. Such walls of water can cascade several kilometers inland and are often the main killers in major weather systems.
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The 1999 super cyclone left nearly 10,000 dead in Odisha, eight years after a typhoon, tornadoes, and flooding killed 139,000 in Bangladesh
Enamor Rahman, Bangladesh’s junior minister for disaster management, told AFP that 2.4 million people and over half a million livestock had been brought to shelter. At a school in the coastal town of Dacope where more than 200 locals were sheltered, masks were in short supply.
Authorities scrambled to evacuate more than three million people from low-lying areas, but the task was complicated by the need to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Two other fatalities were reported by Indian media, including an infant crushed when the mud wall of the family’s hut collapsed in heavy rain in Odisha state.
Houses “look like they have been run over by a bulldozer”, said Babul Mondal, 35, a villager on the edge of the Sunderbans, a vast mangrove forest area home to India’s biggest tiger population.
Kolkata was battered by heavy rain and the muddy Hooghly river was rising under dark skies, while in the coastal resort of Digha, large waves were pounding the shore. In 1970, half a million perished. India has evacuated more than 650,000 in West Bengal and Odisha.”The room is already packed and maintaining social distancing is impossible,” said Rumki Khatun, 25, clutching her baby.
“Everything is destroyed.”
Amphan is the first “super cyclone” to form over the Bay of Bengal since 1999, and packed winds gusting up to 185 kilometres (115) per hour.
Forecasters also warned there could be storm surges of several meters.
“Scores of trees and electricity poles have been uprooted,” hotel owner Partha Tripathi told AFP by phone. “There are washed up boats on the beach.”
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