Richa Sayantika,Calcutta/ Sumi Khan, Dhaka/ Saraswati Jena, Puri
Weather experts on Wednesday predicted that Cyclone Amphan is scheduled to make landfall close to Sundarbans between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” on Wednesday afternoon .
They said that since the Super Cyclone has slightly weakened, the landfall may be slightly delayed but not beyond Wednesday evening.
Massive rain with howling winds at sustained speed of 155-165 mph were reported from coastal West Bengal including Calcutta and Odisha coastline as well from Bangladesh’s Sunderbans.
Sometimes and at some places, the winds were gusting at 185 mph, flattening trees , mud and bamboo houses , electric and telecom poles. Power and Internet disruptions were expected as the Cyclone nears the coast and both the rain and the winds gets stronger..“Amphan is the most intense and the first super cyclone since the 1999 Odisha cyclone. We are dealing with a multi-hazard scenario as the devastating winds are expected to cause extensive damage to structures,h ouses and trees,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the, India Meteorological Department.
The Met Office has raised the cyclone warning to great danger signal 10 for Mongla and Payra ports and kept it unchanged at No. 6 for Chittagong and Cox`s Bazar, said meteorologist Abdul Hamid.
Low-lying areas in coastal districts and their offshore islands and chars are likely to be inundated by sea surges and storms with waves as high as 10 to15 feet above the normal astronomical tide.
Both Bangladesh and India began to evacuate thousands of inhabitants in the coastal areas.
But since most school and government buildings normally used for syclone shelters are being used as quarantine centers used to house Covid suspects, social distancing may go for a toss.
“If Covid suspects and normal villagers are clubbed in the same narrow space with no elbow room, this might aggravate the pandemic in Bengal and Bangladesh’s coastal regions,” said health expert Parthasarthi Dutta.
The storm is expected to move northeast and cut its path through the Bangladesh-West Bengal coast near the Sundarbans by Wednesday evening.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal areas before Cyclone Amphan, one of the most powerful storms in decades, makes landfall as expected on Wednesday afternoon.
The authorities have fewer shelters to work with, because many of them have been turned into quarantine centers for coronavirus patients. Humanitarian workers are worried that by packing people into shelters, coronavirus infections could spread.
As if coping with a cyclone during a pandemic weren’t enough, officials in Bangladesh are worried that the storm could bring rains and floods to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, where about a million Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar live in wooden shacks.
Many people in Bangladesh, apparently, are not heeding the calls to evacuate and move into emergency shelters.
Indian meteorologists say Amphan is a Category 5 hurricane that could unleash 165-mile-an-hour winds and massive floods. Barreling up the Bay of Bengal, the cyclone is expected to make landfall near the border between India and Bangladesh.
“Our lives have always been filled with fear,” said Arjun Mohanty, a teacher in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. “First it was coronavirus, now the storm wants to kill us.”