(Bloomberg) -- The biggest cyclonic storm over the Bay of Bengal in two decades wrecked havoc along India’s east coast and in Bangladesh, killing several people, flooding low-lying areas and affecting power supply.
Amphan is likely to continue to move north-northeastward and weaken further into a depression on Thursday, according to the India Meteorological Department. The storm, which started as a category 5 hurricane and made a landfall Wednesday, will carry sustained wind speeds of 30 to 40 kilometers (19-25 miles) per hour, which may rise to 50 kilometers per hour, it said.
In Bangladesh, at least 12 people were killed, private broadcaster Somoy TV reported. The cyclone snapped power supply to about 5 million homes and caused tidal surges, flooding homes and some coastal areas, according to the report. While in India’s West Bengal state as many as 12 people were killed, said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” Banerjee said. “Electricity and water supply is disconnected. Crops have been damaged. Many areas have been destroyed. We have lost communication.”
The storm had prompted Bangladesh to evacuate about 2.4 million people to storm shelters, while India’s West Bengal moved 500,000 people into relief centers. There are concerns that the coronavirus infections may rise in cyclone shelters as people don’t have enough masks and social distancing rules are not strictly being followed at many places.
“Disasters also wreak havoc on fighting of a pandemic” as all attention and resources shift to relief operations, said Bhubaneswar-based Bhuputra Panda, associate professor with Public Health Foundation of India. The possibility of an increase in infections has risen sharply as even some quarantine centers have been converted into cyclone shelter homes, he said.
The cyclone has heaped more misery on India and Bangladesh, whose economies have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Indian economy is headed for its first full-year contraction in more than four decades, while Fitch Solutions in April lowered Bangladesh’s GDP growth forecast.
“It’s a big disaster. This is a bigger disaster than even Covid-19,” Banerjee told reporters late Wednesday.
Heavy rain flooded Kolkata airport, affecting cargo and evacuation flights, NDTV reported. Passenger flights have been suspended in India due to a nation-wide lockdown to fight the coronavirus. The federal government has decided to resume domestic flights from May 25.
Light to moderate showers are expected to continue in some areas of West Bengal, while heavy rainfall is likely at some places in northeastern states of Assam and Meghalaya, India’s weather office said. India’s National Disaster Response Force personnel are clearing roads that are blocked by uprooted trees, broken electric poles and hoardings, it said on Twitter.
The cyclone has now turned into a land depression, according to a bulletin by Bangladesh’s meteorological office. The country has lowered its danger warnings for ports, it said.
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