Cyclone Amphan  – ‘We Didn’t Expect Devastation of Such a Scale’

Jessore district in Bangladesh was one the coastal districts evacuated of nearly 2.4 million people and over half a million livestock ahead of Cyclone Amphan making landfall. Credit: Stella Paul

Jessore district in Bangladesh was one the coastal districts
evacuated of nearly 2.4 million people and over half a million
livestock ahead of Cyclone Amphan making landfall. Credit: Stella
Paul

By Stella Paul
HYDERBAD, India, May 21 2020 (IPS)

Amid the social distancing measures posed by the COVID-19
pandemic, coastal communities in Bangladesh and India face a double
threat as the record-breaking Cyclone Amphan made landfall
yesterday (May 20).

With sustained wind speeds of 270km/h, intensified by record
water temperatures in May, the storm is now stronger than the 1999
super cyclone Fani and the joint-strongest on record in the North
Indian Ocean.  

At least 12 people have died in West Bengal, India and 10 deaths
have been reported in Bangladesh so far.

  • With over 2 million people in shelters and relief camps,
    Bangladesh waited with baited breath for Cyclone Amphan.
  • Large scale damage of properties have been reported all over
    West Bengal, including Kolkata (Calcutta) city. 
  • In an online press briefing, Mamata Banerjee, the chief
    minister of West Bengal, said it would take 10-12 days to assess
    the real loss and damage. 
  • On Thursday afternoon, Cyclone Amphan weakened
    significantly.  

Disastrous effect at a very large scale

Cyclone Amphan made its landfall on Wednesday afternoon
at Digha â€“ a coastal town 187 km south of Kolkata city. During
the four-hour long landfall, it created a long trail of
devastation, including uprooting trees, destroying mud houses and
electricity wires. 

Damages have also occurred in Odisha – another Indian coastal
state where hundreds of mud houses have caved in due to the wind
and heavy rainfall. Cities like the Odisha capital, Bhubaneshwar,
are waterlogged with power outages all over Odisha and West Bengal,
including Kolkata.  

 The devastation comes as India is still struggling to contain
the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The state of West Bengal, which has been in the direct pathway
    of the cyclone labelled by the meteorological department as
    “extremely severeâ€, has had 2,961 positive cases and 250
    deaths.
  • In addition, the state is also grappling with hundreds of
    thousands of migrant workers who have been returning home to escape
    the difficulties of a 55-day lockdown.    

“We are fighting 3 challenges: 1) coronavirus , 2) arrival of
lakhs (hundred thousands) of migrants and the cyclone Amphan,â€
Banerjee said at a May 20 press briefing.  

According to Banerjee, the overall impact on the state has been
disastrous. â€œIt might take us 10-12 days to assess it all, but
there are damages worth millions. Houses, roads, river embankment
– everything has been hit,†she said, before adding her own
office building – “Nabanna†has been partially damaged by the
wind. 

 â€œWe are shocked. We didn’t expect devastation of such a
scale,†she said.     

 According to the meteorological office in Kolkata, the highest
speed of Amphan in Kolkata has been 133 km/ph and though the wind
speed has declined below 100 by Wednesday night, it subsided on
Thursday afternoon after moving to Bangladesh.  

Bangladesh launched massive evacuation

In the middle of its intense fight against the coronavirus
pandemic, Bangladesh launched a massive evacuation operation to
safeguard its citizens and livestock in coastal districts.   

By Wednesday evening, the country evacuated nearly 2.4 million
people and over half a million livestock in the coastal districts
of Khulna, Satkheera, Jessore, Rajbadi and Sirajganj – the
districts that will be on the crossway of Amphan.

Local schools have been set up as temporary shelters/relief
camps for the evacuees, local media quoted Bangladesh’s Disaster
Management and Relief Minister Enamur Rahman as saying.

 But with the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise with 27,000
already confirmed cases and over 350 dead, the cyclone has only
increased the country’s uphill battle for safety.  

“Cyclone Amphan, which is about to hit Bangladesh, will worsen
the situation of our population, which is struggling to control the
COVID-19 pandemic and is already trapped due to measures of
isolation and social distancing. While Bangladesh has an efficient
system of cyclone shelters, most of the coastal communities that
will be impacted are scared to move to those shelters, as it will
be almost impossible to practice social distancing norms there,â€
Sohanur Rahman from YouthNet for Climate Justice in
Bangladesh, told IPS before Cyclone Amphan made landfall. 

Climate change is increasing the damage that cyclones
like Amphan cause in several ways, including increasing sea surface
temperatures and rising sea levels, increasing rainfalls during the
storm, and causing storms to gain strength more quickly.   

Stronger cyclones have become more common across the world due
to climate change, and the strength of cyclones affecting countries
bordering the North Indian Ocean has been increasing as the planet
has warmed.     

Also, sea levels in the North Indian Ocean have risen more
quickly than other places in recent years. According
to a study,
India and Bangladesh could experience dramatic annual coastal
flooding by 2050, affecting 36 million people in India and 42
million in Bangladesh.  

  

The post
Cyclone Amphan  â€“ â€˜We Didn’t Expect Devastation of Such a
Scale’
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Cyclone Amphan  – ‘We Didn’t Expect
Devastation of Such a Scale’