Richa Sayantika, Calcutta / Sumi Khan , Dhaka
Severe cyclonic storm ‘Amphan’ s landfall at Digha in West Bengal today left behnd a trail of destruction with atleast three deaths reported from the state.
The cyclone with winds at 160-170 kmph and gusting up to 190 kmph with heavy rain hit the Digha coast in East Medinipur district around 2.30 pm, officials said.
Two women were killed in Howrah district and Minakhan area of North 24 Parganas district due to uprooting of trees, an official said. A third death was later reported from North 24 Parganas.
The landfall continued for four hours, with heavy rain and triggering three-five metres of tidal waves, the MeT department said.
In Calcutta , high rise buildings shook as winds battered the city.
‘Amphan’ cut a swathe through the coastal areas, flattening fragile dwellings, uprooting trees and electric poles.
At least 6.58 lakh people were evacuated in West Bengal and Odisha before the cyclone struck. NDRF said that 20 teams of the federal disaster response force had already begun road clearing operations in Odisha, while the 19 units deployed in West Bengal were shifting people to safety.
In Bangladesh, officials on Wednesday evening confirmed three deaths, including a five-year-old boy and a 75-year-old man, both hit by falling trees, and a cyclone emergency volunteer who was drowned.
An infant was crushed when the mud wall of the family’s hut collapsed in heavy rain in Odisha state, Saraswati Jena reported from Puri.
Bangladesh evacuated 2.4 million people to shelters. Another 650,000 people were moved to safety in the eastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal, authorities said, an operation carried out amid surging coronavirus infections.
The Bengal-Bangladesh coast, with 58 million people in the two bordering countries, has some of the most vulnerable communities in South Asia: poor fishing communities in the Sunderbans and over a million Rohingya refugees living in crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar in Southeastetn Bangladesh.
Houses “look like they have been run over by a bulldozer,” said Babul Mondal, 35, a villager on the edge of the Sunderbans, a vast mangrove forest area home to India’s biggest tiger population.
“Everything is destroyed.” It was too early to estimate a toll on life or damage to property.
Cyclone Amphan began moving inland with winds gusting up to 185kph (119 miles an hour), Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the India Meteorological Department, told Easternlink.
Mohapatra said the storm surge rose to around five metres in the Sundarbans delta, home to around four million people and thick mangrove forests that are a critical tiger habitat.
“Our estimate is that some areas 10-15 kilometres from the coast could be inundated,” Mohapatra said.
Coconut trees swayed wildly, electric poles lay scattered on the roads of Kolkata, rain pounded fishing villages, and rivers surged as the storm battered the coast.