Amphan, the most powerful cyclone sustaining winds up to 185 km per hour struck Eastern India and Bangladesh on 20th March, Wednesday. Officials said that the enormous cyclone had killed around 88 people. According to the Cheif Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, at least 72 people perished from Bengal after the cyclone. The toll was up to 16 in Bangladesh. Though the damage has been reduced by the authorities taking control and evacuating more than 2.4 million people from coastal villages, it still managed to make vast destruction. More than half a million livestock were also brought to shelters. India evacuated 6,50,000 people from Odisha and West Bengal.
The cyclone devasted the state’s densely populated capital, Kolkata with heavy rain and winds uprooting trees and electric poles, destroying buildings and leaving houses waterlogged in many low lying areas. “Our building was swaying, and water gushed in through the windows. It was scary. I have never seen such a storm in my life. It was worse than cyclone Aila, which hit in May 2009 and caused severe damage,” said Arpita Pal, who resides on the 10th floor of building in east Kolkata. “The impact of Amphan is worse than Coronavirus”, said Mamata Banerjee. PM Modi also announced ₹ 1,000 crore relief for Amphan hit West Bengal.
The United Nations Office in Bangladesh estimated that around 10 million people were affected and 5,00,000 have lost homes. Amphan has caused additional misery to the already vulnerable Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar. The community has no place to sleep, and families have squeezed to accommodate neighbours with a roof. Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its mangrove forest and population of endangered Bengal tigers, have also been heavily damaged. Houses “look like they have been run over by a bulldozer”, said Babul Mondal, 35, a villager on the edge of the Indian side of the Sundarbans, which is home to approximately four million people.
With a lot of people being evacuated, the problem has increased due to the ongoing pandemic because of overcrowding in shelters. Families have been packed in schools, government buildings, and community halls. Authorities in both countries have sent masks and sanitizers to relief camps, but social distancing is next to impossible in these shelters. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the storm has put 19 million children at risk, not only from the direct effects of floods and wind damage but also from the potential spread of COVID-19 in crowded evacuation shelters. Amphan has caused a tremendous loss of lives, capital, property, and heritage. But the exact numbers and full extent of the casualties and property damage will be calculated once communication gets restored.
Image Source – Amphan