'Super cyclone' bears down on Bangladesh, India

'Super cyclone' bears down on Bangladesh, India”

India faces one of its biggest storms in about a decade, the weather office said, as the super cyclone Amphan, equivalent to a hurricane of category 5, is expected to hit its coast late on Wednesday.

Amphan, seen in a satellite image captured Sunday, is moving over the Bay of Bengal and is expected to make landfall near the border of India and Bangladesh this week.

The cyclone, packing wind speeds of up to 160 kph, could cause tidal waves and heavy rainfall to unleash floods.

Authorities suggest the devastating wind speed of the cyclone can cause large scale and extensive damage to structures.

IMD said East Medinipur, South and North 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and Kolkata districts in West Bengal will be the hardest hit, as well as Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada, Bhadrak and Balasore in northern Odisha. The cyclone Amphan comes a year after cyclone "Fani" on May 3, 2019 that claimed the lives of 64 people.

Police in West Bengal state, which is expected to be badly affected by the storm, said people were unwilling to go to the shelters because they were afraid of contracting Covid-19 and many were refusing to leave their livestock behind.

Authorities have scrambled to stage mass evacuations away from the path of Super Cyclone Amphan, which is only the second "super cyclone" to form in the north-eastern Indian Ocean since records began.

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Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the India Meteorological Department said: "Amphan is the most intense and the first super cyclone since the 1999 Odisha cyclone".

Urging people not to be afraid, he assured that everyone will be provided with dry food along with other essential items until the storm is over.

"We are also keeping separate isolation rooms in the shelters for any infected patients", Bangladesh's junior disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

"Heavy rains, flooding [and] the destruction of homes and farmland, will increase the likelihood of the virus spreading, particularly in densely populated areas like the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar", ActionAid said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting Monday and reviewed the response preparedness and evacuation plan shared by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

The chief minister said that she along with senior government officials would directly monitor the situation in the state and that she would herself stay put at the state secretariat on Wednesday. In light of the new coronavirus pandemic, he said relief efforts will be "tailored" to enforce protection "both on the front of COVID-19 as well as safety from the cyclone". Odisha has about 560 permanent cyclone shelters and identified more than 7,000 public buildings as temporary places to keep people, he said.

Under the influence of the cyclone, low-lying areas in the coastal districts and their offshore islands and chars are likely to be inundated by storm surges climbing 10-15 feet above the normal astronomical tide, said meteorologist Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik.

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