Cyclone Amphan bears down on millions in India and Bangladesh


New Delhi, Strong winds and heavy rains lashed coastal areas of eastern India and Bangladesh as Cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal neared shore ahead of landfall later on Wednesday.


Amphan is expected to pack winds gusting up to 185 kilometers per hour (km/h) when it crosses the coast between the Indian state of West Bengal and Bangladesh by evening, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.


Although Amphan weakened from a super cyclone on Tuesday, meteorologists warn it could cause large-scale damage from strong winds, tidal waves, heavy rains and flooding, including in the city of Kolkata, with a population of 15 million.


Among the most powerful regional cyclones in two decades, Amphan was expected to produce a storm surge of up to 5 meters pushing seawater by as much as 15 kilometers inland, IMD chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said, dpa reported.


Millions hunkered down in their homes and storm shelters in coastal areas as road and rail traffic was suspended and the Kolkata airport was shut down as precautionary measure.


Wind speeds of 102 km/h were observed at Odisha state’s Paradip port city and there was extensive uprooting of trees, state disaster management services chief PK Jena said.


While Bangladesh plans to evacuate 2.2 million people, half a million more were moved to shelters in India – 400,000 in West Bengal and 137,000 in Odisha.


Both India and Bangladesh have been under a protracted lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.


The evacuations posed a “double challenge” as physical distancing guidelines had to be ensured even as cyclone centres were reportedly being used as quarantines for a large number of migrant workers returning home.


Source: Bahrain News Agency