Super cyclone Amphan: Bengal evacuates people from coastal areas

Published : May 19, 2020 20:24 IST

Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force make announcements on Cyclone Amphan at Namkhana in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district, on May 19. Photo: NDRF VIA AP

West Bengal gears up to face one of the biggest natural disasters coming its way, as super cyclone Amphan (pronounced Um Pun) gets within striking distance on the Bay of Bengal. Amphan, the second super cyclone in the region since the one that hit Orissa in 1999, is expected to be one of the most destructive cyclones to hit the State in several decades. It is expected to make a landfall in the afternoon of May 20 in the coastal region of the State between Digha in Purbo Medinipur and Hathia in Bangladesh, with an accompanying wind speed of 165-175 km per hour.

The districts of Purbo Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Howrah and Kolkata are expected to be worst hit. When the cyclone makes landfall, the wind speed in Kolkata itself can rise up to 120 km per hour, and on the coast the waves can get as high as 18 feet (6 metres approximately). Along with heavy rainfall and high winds, in certain areas, particularly the low-lying regions of North and South 24 Parganas and Purba Medinipur, there may be storm surges of three to four metres, which will cause flooding.

According to Sanjib Bandopadhyay, Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, Alipore, Amphan’s impact is likely to be more devastating than those of Aila (2009) and Bulbul (2019). During Aila and Bulbul, the impact on Kolkata was not very strong, with Amphan, however, it is likely to be very intense. “From Wednesday morning, wind speed in Kolkata will be from 75 to 85 km per. When the cyclone makes landfall, the wind speed will increase to 110 to 120 km per hour. We are issuing an advisory that there should be no movement of people in the city,” said Bandyopadhyay. He also pointed out that the COVID-linked lockdown would help minimise the loss of lives, and there are no tourists in the coastal areas, nor are fishermen out at sea.

According to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, two lakh people have been evacuated in South 24 Parganas, around 50,000 in North 24 Parganas, 40,000 in Purbo Medinipur, and around 10,000 in Paschim Medinipur. They have been put up in various cyclone shelters and relief camps. “My request to those who have been put up in these shelters is that please do not leave them. Day after tomorrow (May 21) afternoon, when the weather clears up and the administration gives you the clearance, you can go out,” said Mamata. In Kolkata, the municipal corporation has evacuated people living in old dilapidated houses.

With COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the State, the government also has to look at physical distancing and sanitisation in the shelters. “On the one hand there is the lockdown due to COVID, and now, on top of that there is this danger. I will request everyone to stay safe and use masks or cloths to cover your faces,” said Mamata. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has spoken to the Chief Minister and assured her of the Centre’s support.