India and Bangladesh evacuated millions of people from the path of the most powerful storm in 20 years, which is expected to make landfall as early as 09:00 GMT on Wednesday and has raised fears of extensive damage to houses and crops and disruption of road, rail and power links.
The authorities’ move to save lives was complicated by continuing efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic and enforce social distancing.
Many thousands of migrant workers are on the roads trying to urge home from big cities after a nationwide lockdown destroyed their livelihoods, while quite 1,000,000 Rohingya are in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Approaching from the Bay of Bengal, super cyclone Amphan was expected to hit the coast of eastern India and southern Bangladesh with winds gusting up to 185 kilometres per hour (115 miles per hour) – the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane.
The Indian weather department forecast a storm surge of 10- to 16-foot (3-4 metre) waves – as high as a two-storey house – that would swamp mud dwellings along the coast, uproot communication towers and inundate roads and railway tracks.
There will be extensive damage to standing crops and plantations within the states of West Bengal and Odisha while large boats and ships could get torn from their moorings, the weather service said during a bulletin late on Tuesday.
Authorities were hastily repurposing quarantine facilities for the looming cyclone soon after easing the world’s biggest lockdown against the coronavirus. India has reported quite 100,000 cases with 3,163 deaths.
‘Crisis on top of a crisis’
Railway officials diverted variety of trains carrying thousands of migrant workers to eastern states from the capital of latest Delhi faraway from the cyclone’s path where that they had lost their jobs thanks to coronavirus lockdowns.
“We have almost six hours left to evacuate people from their homes and that we even have to take care of social distancing norms,” disaster management official SG Rai told Reuters press agency .
“The cyclone could wash away thousands of huts and standing crops.”About 300,000 people had been moved to storm shelters, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said. The capital Kolkata lies near the cyclone’s path and there was concern about people living in about 1,500 old, dilapidated buildings.
Pankaj Anand, of the humanitarian group Oxfam in India, described Amphan as “a crisis on top of a crisis.”
“Many of the cyclone evacuation shelters are already getting used as coronavirus quarantine centres or housing migrants who have returned to their coastal communities due to lockdown. People are worried there won’t be enough space within the shelters which they could catch coronavirus in them.”
Moving to higher ground
Neighbouring Bangladesh, where the cyclone posed a devastating threat along a low-lying, marshy coast, was shifting many thousands of individuals to higher ground.
There are fears that up 1.4 million people could also be displaced thanks to the cyclone and 600,000 homes might be destroyed, consistent with Oxfam.Bangladeshi authorities were also urging use of masks against the virus, which has caused 20,995 infections and 314 deaths.
“We have taken necessary steps in order that people can maintain distance and wear masks,” said Enamur Rahman, the junior minister for disaster management. He said 12,000 cyclone shelters were found out to accommodate quite five million people.
Bangladeshi officials said the cyclone could depart tidal waves and heavy rainfall, unleashing floods.
It was expected to hit land between the districts of Chittagong and Khulna, just 150 km (93 miles) from refugee camps housing quite 1,000,000 Rohingya in flimsy shelters.Aid workers have stockpiled emergency items like food, tarpaulins and water purification tablets.
“We are really very worried,” said Haiko Magtrayo, a worker of the International Committee of the Red Cross based within the nearby town of Cox’s Bazar.Hundreds more Rohingya, rescued from boats adrift within the Bay of Bengal, live on the flood-prone island of Bhasan Char.
“It is already a huge challenge to contain the spread of coronavirus amongst the Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded camps, sharing water and toilet facilities. Cyclone Amphan is also a major threat to the millions of vulnerable Bangladeshis living in low-lying flood-prone coastal areas,” Dipankar Datta, country director of Oxfam in Bangladesh said in a statement.