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India and Bangladesh have evacuated about half a million people from the path of the strongest storm in the region in a decade before the expected landing, as authorities fear serious damage to homes, crops, roads, rails and power connections.

Important points:

  • 25 rescue services have already been deployed in India
  • About 300,000 people were taken to shelters in West Bengal
  • Bangladeshi officials said the cyclone could trigger tidal waves, heavy rainfall, and trigger flooding

Cyclone Amphan is approaching the Bay of Bengal and is expected to hit the coast of eastern India and southern Bangladesh with gusts of wind of up to 185 kilometers per hour - this corresponds to a category 4 hurricane.

The Indian weather department has forecast a storm surge of 3 to 5 meters waves - as high as a two-story house - that could inundate mud dwellings along the coast, uproot communication towers, and flood roads and rails.

Standing crops and plantations in the states of West Bengal and Odisha will be severely damaged while large boats and ships could be torn from their berths, the weather service said in a bulletin late Tuesday.

Indian Union Interior Minister Amit Shah said via Twitter that 25 emergency services have already been deployed, with 12 more "in reserve" and 24 on standby.


The authorities' job of saving lives is made more difficult by ongoing efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic and enforce social distancing to avoid an increase in infections.

The world's largest lockdown against COVID-19 was recently relaxed in India, where more than 100,000 people were infected and 3,163 died.

Shri Pradha, director general of the National Disaster Response Force in India, said the response was unprecedented.

“This is the first time we have faced two disasters,” he said.

“In short, it's a cyclone in the time of COVID-19. So we are facing this double challenge and we are taking appropriate steps. "

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Move to a higher level

Rail officials have rerouted a number of trains carrying thousands of migrant workers from the capital, New Delhi, to the eastern states where they had lost their jobs due to coronavirus lockdowns.

"We only have six hours to evacuate people from their homes and we also need to adhere to socially distant norms," ​​said SG Rai, disaster management official.

"The cyclone could wash away thousands of huts and standing crops."

According to Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister of West Bengal, around 300,000 people were taken to storm shelters.

Neighboring Bangladesh, where the cyclone posed a devastating threat along a low-lying, swampy coastline, has raised hundreds of thousands of people to a higher level.

The Bangladeshi authorities also called for the use of masks against the virus, which has caused 20,995 infections and 314 deaths nationwide.

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"We have taken the necessary steps so that people can keep their distance and wear masks," said Enamur Rahman, junior minister for disaster management.

He said 12,000 cyclone shelters were set up to hold more than 5 million people.

Rohingya in danger

The main refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, known as the “Megacamp”, is the largest and most overcrowded in the world. People live shoulder to shoulder in emergency shelters that are less than a meter apart.

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Bangladeshi officials said the cyclone could trigger tidal waves, heavy rainfall, and trigger flooding.

It is expected to hit land between Chittagong and Khulna districts, just 150 kilometers from refugee camps that house more than a million Rohingya in poor housing.

Rescuers have stored emergency items such as groceries, tarps, and water purification tablets.

"We are really very concerned," said Haiko Magtrayo, a staff member on the International Committee of the Red Cross in the nearby town of Cox’s Bazar.

Hundreds of other Rohingya rescued from boats floating in the Bay of Bengal live on the flood-prone island of Bhasan Char.

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ABC / wires