Thousands in India and Bangladesh left homeless as Cyclone Amphan wreaks havoc

THOUSANDS of people have been left homeless in the wake of Cyclone Amphan, which slammed into India’s eastern coast on Wednesday afternoon, as authorities race to provide relief efforts in communities already stricken by the coronavirus.
Amphan, which was the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal before it weakened, ripped apart homes, tore down trees, washed away bridges and left large predominately rural areas without power or communications.
The state of West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday at least 12 people had died in eastern India, with one young girl in the Howrah district killed after a wall collapsed inside her home.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, the death toll from Cyclone Amphan has risen to 10, according to the governmental Health Emergency Operations Center. Among those killed was a 57-year-old Red Crescent volunteer in Barisal who drowned when attempting to help others to safety, the Red Crescent Society of Bangladesh said.
Large-scale evacuation efforts throughout India and Bangladesh appear to have saved many lives, but it could take days to realize the full extent of the deaths, injuries and damage from the cyclone. Fallen debris has made many of the roads impassible and heavy rains continue to fall on hard-hit areas.
Disaster teams worked throughout the night and into Thursday morning in India’s West Bengal and Odisha states, clearing trees and other debris from roads.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the devastation caused by the cyclone in a series of tweets on Thursday, writing, “No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected.”
“The entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal,” he wrote. “My thoughts are with the people of Odisha as the state bravely battles the effects of Cyclone Amphan.”
Cyclone Amphan is a disaster bigger than the coronavirus outbreak, the state’s chief minister Banerjee said at a news conference Wednesday.
“The whole of the southern part of the state has been affected. We are shocked,” the chief minister said. “The cyclone has affected the electricity supply and destroyed many houses, bridges and embankments.”
In the areas affected by the cyclone, many villagers live in temporary homes with thatched or tin roofs, which were easily swept away in the powerful winds.
In Bangladesh, nearly every coastal district has been seriously affected by Cyclone Amphan, according to an official at the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.
Several poorly maintained dams broke down even before the cyclone made landfall, causing extensive flooding in parts of the country.
Amphan weakened into the equivalent of an Atlantic tropical storm as it crossed the border between West Bengal and Bangladesh Thursday morning, but is still packing strong winds of up to 110 kph (68 mph). The system is expected to continue weakening over the next 24 hours as it travels northeast.

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