More than 1.1 million people in eastern India and Bangladesh are being hurriedly evacuated as the ‘extremely severe’ cyclonic storm ‘Amphan’ threatens to make landfall within days.
With winds of 150 miles per hour (241kph) and predicted storm surges of up to 30 feet, India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has mobilized more than 750 people to undertake the unenviable task of evacuating hundreds of thousands of people during a global pandemic.
Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘AMPHAN’ (pronounced as UM-PUN) over west-central & adjoining central parts of South BoB: Cyclone Warning for West Bengal and north Odisha coasts. To intensify further as SuCS. pic.twitter.com/BWnWMTXpBG
— India Met. Dept. (@Indiametdept) May 18, 2020
Amphan is expected to make landfall on Wednesday, so time is of the essence, especially as it is expected to intensify further to a super cyclone on Monday night, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
According to current models, the storm system will likely strike somewhere between West Bengal and the Hatiya Islands in Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon, with a sustained wind speed of between 96mph to 102mph gusting to 114mph, but it is expected to lose some strength before making landfall.
Let’s talk about Category-5 Super Cyclone #Amphan – Just a monster of a tropical cyclone on satellite this morning. Amphan is the 1st Cyclone of the 2020 Indian Ocean Cyclone Season and it’s an indication of how conducive the Indian Ocean is for supporting big cyclones this year. pic.twitter.com/mfNUsF5iAl
— MJVentrice (@MJVentrice) May 18, 2020
The Indian state of Odisha alone is planning to evacuate 1.1 million people from low-lying areas which are expected to be flattened, having already been ravaged by multiple cyclones in the last few years, including Cyclone Fani in 2019.
Authorities are predicting widespread destruction, including the loss of key power and communications infrastructure, as well as disruption to rail and road links, and extensive damage to crops and plantations. Port authorities have shut down operations, and fishermen have been advised to suspend their work in Bengal and Odisha until May 20.
“A total of 37 teams have been deployed by NDRF in West Bengal and Odisha, out of which 20 teams are actively deployed and 17 are on standby in the two states,” said NDRF Director General S N Pradhan.
Meanwhile, India has reported over 96,000 cases and 3,029 deaths from the coronavirus, while Bangladesh has recorded some 23,870 cases, with a death toll of over 349.
India and Bangladesh aren’t the only ones coping with simultaneous public health and natural disasters, as authorities in the Philippines were forced to evacuate over 200,000 people to shelter from Typhoon Vongfong, while maintaining social distancing to avoid worsening the ongoing pandemic.
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