More than 2.6 million people had to be evacuated from India and Bangladesh after a cyclone ravaged the coasts of both countries, The Associated Press reported.
The cyclone impacted some of the most vulnerable communities including Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The devastation comes as both countries are still under lockdown and trying to control their coronavirus outbreaks.
At least seven people have died, but the complete toll of the devastation is not apparent yet.
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A powerful cyclone made its way onto mainland India and Bangladesh after more than 2.6 million people frantically fled to shelters on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.
The cyclone, dubbed “Amphan,” was equal to a category 3 hurricane. Business Insider previously reported that the cyclone was “carrying extremely heavy rains and wind speeds that could reach up to around 105 miles per hour when it hits the land.”
According to The New York Times, authorities are waiting until Thursday to get a clearer idea of the amount of devastation from the cyclone.
“The next 24 hours are very crucial,” Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, India’s chief meteorologist told the AP. “This is a long haul.”
While the storm was expected to be weaker as it made its way towards Bangladesh, “authorities warned of extensive damage to flimsy houses and storm surges pushing seawater” around 15 miles inland. Cities including Kolkata were flooded.
Additionally, the storm left many areas without electricity or phone service and wiped away bridges between India’s islands and it’s mainland.
The cyclone came at a time when India was anticipating its peak of coronavirus cases.
A man covers himself with a plastic sheet and walks in the rain ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall, at Bhadrak district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
“We are facing three crises: the coronavirus, the thousands of migrants who are returning home and now the cyclone,” Banerjee, who is an opposition leader and one of the fiercest critics of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said according to the AP.
Source: AP, Business Insider
Both India and Bangladesh are still under coronavirus lockdown.
A man walks in the rain ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall, at Bhadrak district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
According to The Times, many of the people living along the swampy coasts of both countries were worried about going into crowded shelters and risking coronavirus infection.
India had been turning emergency shelters into COVID-19 quarantine centers, before the cyclone.
A boat stands anchored as it rains ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall, at Bhadrak district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Wednesday, May 20, 202
India has reported more than 100,000 coronavirus infections. According to The Times, because, the country repurposed their emergency shelters, they had few left when the cyclone hit.
Port operations in West Bengal were halted on Tuesday.
Boats are anchored at a fishing harbor at Paradeep, on the Bay of Bengal coast in Orissa, India, Tuesday, May 19, 2020
People began to be evacuated from the coast on Tuesday morning, The Times of India reported.
The cyclone could also hinder India’s efforts to control the spread of coronavirus.
A man covers him head with a box and walks in the rain ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall, at Bhadrak district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
According to the AP, the country’s fight against the virus would be made more difficult now that supply lines are cut, roads are destroyed, and lockdown measures are slowing relief work.
Tuhin Ghosh, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University, told the AP that the pandemic’s lockdown has already sapped people’s resilience.
“Because they are economically down, they are not getting enough food. … When another disaster comes, then it’s a double impact,” he said.
Amphan is being called one of the most powerful cyclones in decades.
A small ship moored on the swollen Hooghly River due to a cyclonic storm in Kolkata, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
AP Photo/Bikas Das
Source: The New York Times
Some of the most vulnerable communities in the region were in its path.
Rain clouds hover over the Hooghly River in Kolkata, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
AP Photo/Bikas Das
According to the AP, the region has around 58 million people including poor fishing communities in the Sunderbans and over a million Rohingya refugees in the crowded camps of Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.
The cyclone has already resulted in seven deaths.
Trucks are stranded on a bridge across River Mahanadi at Paradeep, on the Bay of Bengal coast in Orissa, India, Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
One woman was crushed by a tree in India, and a cyclone preparedness team volunteer drowned when a boat capsized in a canal, the AP reported. According to the New York Times, a child died after a mud wall collapsed on him.
Some are worried that the impact of the cyclone mixed with the pandemic will cause a “new humanitarian crisis.”
Evacuated children wearing masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus stand at a relief camp at Paradeep, on the Bay of Bengal coast in Orissa, India, Tuesday, May 19, 2020
“We know that if people are forced to seek communal shelter, they’ll be unable to maintain physical distancing and run the risk of contracting or transmitting the virus,” Manuel Pereira, deputy chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration in Bangladesh told the AP.
2.4 million people were evacuated in Bangladesh.
Commuters take shelter in an empty taxi stand at Howrah railway station as it rains in Kolkata, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
AP Photo/Bikas Das
Another approximately 300,000 people were evacuated from India’s West Bengal state, and Odisha state evacuated 148,486, according to the AP.
Many were afraid of heading to shelters over fear of catching the virus, even as officials try not to fill shelters that could fit thousands to capacity.
A man struggles to hold his umbrella and walk against high wind in Kolkata, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
AP Photo/Bikas Das
According to The Times, some of the shelters are only kept at half capacity. However, others told the AP, that in some of the shelters were crowded, specifically those closes to Sunderbans.
Sobrato Das, a fisherman on Mousuni Island in India, also told the AP that not everyone was wearing a mask, children were crying and women were desperately trying “to cover their faces with their saris while trying to maintain some distance from each other.”
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