Cyclone Amphan has made landfall in West Bengal

Highlights

  • Over five lakh people have been taken to shelters in West Bengal
  • Cyclone Amphan is one of the worst storms over the Bay of Bengal in years
  • Kolkata airport has been shut till 5 am Thursday

New Delhi: Kolkata and nearby areas saw winds of over 100 kmph and pounding rain after Cyclone Amphan, one of the worst storms over the Bay of Bengal in years, made landfall this evening towards Sunderbans, a marshy region famous for its mangroves. Three people have died and many buildings in Kolkata were damaged. “The impact of Cyclone Amphan on West Bengal has been worse than the coronavirus pandemic,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said. Damages due to Cyclone Amphan could be worth Rs 1 lakh crore, she added, while appealing for humanitarian aid. The eye of the cyclone was 30 km in diameter, India Meteorological Department (IMD) Director General Mrityunjay Mohapatra said. Over five lakh people have been taken to shelters in West Bengal and over one lakh in Odisha, the National Disaster Response Force (NRDF) chief said today in a press briefing.

Here’s your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. Ms Banerjee, addressing a press conference in Kolkata, said three people have died, but that the number may rise to about 12. She said North and South 24 Parganas districts were the worst hit and that Bengal “will have to rebuild everything”.

  2. The wind speed was 110-120 km per hour when it reached Howrah, Kolkata and Hoogli, a senior IMD official told reporters. Amphan weakened from a super cyclone to an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” on Tuesday, causing strong winds and heavy rain in parts of Odisha and Bengal as it advanced towards the Indian coast.

  3. The authorities have scrambled to evacuate low-lying areas in Amphan’s projected trail of destruction, only the second “super cyclone” to form over the Bay of Bengal since records began. But their task is complicated by the need to follow precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with infection numbers still soaring in both countries and hospitals struggling to cope.

  4. The met office warned of possible flying objects, “extensive” damage to communications and power lines, and trees being ripped out of the ground by the wind. Kolkata was battered by heavy rain and the muddy Hooghly river was rising under dark skies, while in the coastal resort of Digha, large waves were pounding the shore.

  5. National Disaster Response Force chief SN Pradhan said the storm is “a double challenge” for the country amid fight against coronavirus. “Forty-one teams of NDRF are on duty. Evacuating people is a double challenge. We have to ensure social distancing during these operations,” Mr Pradhan told NDTV today.

  6. In Kolkata, the airport has been shut till 5 am tomorrow after the city, close to the coast, was put on alert. Visuals showed strong winds and winds battering coastal parts including Paradip in Odisha and South 24 Paraganas in Bengal. Seven districts in Bengal faced the direct impact of the cyclone.

  7. A storm surge – as high as five metres above the astronomical tide – will inundate the low-lying coastal areas in Bengal, India Meteorological Department Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra has said. Describing the vulnerable areas as “red plus zones”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she would stay overnight in the control room tonight.

  8. Those living near the coast have been warned against stepping out; fishermen have been warned to stay off coast. Mamata Banerjee said they should stay in till an all-clear was sounded on Thursday. “The tail-end of a cyclone can do worst damage, so people should not come out of their homes until they get an all-clear,” she said, recalling that when Cyclone Fani hit last year, more died when the cyclone was leaving.

  9. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had chaired a high-level meeting to review the response measures and preparedness to tackle the storm. “Reviewed the preparedness regarding the situation due to cyclone ‘Amphan.’ The response measures as well as evacuation plans were discussed. I pray for everyone’s safety and assure all possible support from the Central Government,” PM Modi tweeted after the meeting.

  10. “Amphan”, pronounced as “Um-pun”, means sky. The name was given by Thailand in 2004, years ago. The storm is being constantly tracked by Doppler Weather Radar at Vishakhapatnam.

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