Amphan is the “Strongest Ever Cyclone” Over the Bay of Bengal. Can 2020 Please Give Us a Break?


Amphan is the “Strongest Ever Cyclone” Over the Bay of Bengal. Can 2020 Please Give Us a Break?

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

As if the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown woes weren’t enough, the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha are now bracing for the impact of Cyclone Amphan. Amphan is a superstorm that has formed over the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Meteorological Department has said that it is the most intense cyclone seen in the region since 1999. The super cyclone Amphan has weakened into an extremely severe cyclonic storm, said National Disaster Response Force chief SN Pradhan on Tuesday.

However, a report in the CNN says Super Cyclone Amphan became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal, after intensifying with sustained wind speeds of up to 270 kilometres per hour, according to data from the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Amphan is expected to make landfall on Wednesday afternoon between West Bengal’s Digha and Hatya Island in Bangladesh.

The Odisha super cyclone of 1999 had recorded wind speed of 260 kmph. It caused widespread destruction and claimed 10,000 lives. Amphan has reportedly surpassed that but Odisha and West Bengal, the two states expected to face the worst of Cyclone Amphan, are preparing round the clock to minimise the devastation.

As the storm moved closer to the coast, it triggered heavy rainfall in several parts of Odisha and Bengal, even as evacuations were on.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said she will ask Railways to stop all Shramik special trains to the state until Thursday. “All precautionary measures are taken to deal with any eventuality arising out of the super cyclone. I had a word with Union Home Minister Amit Shah regarding it. At least three lakh people have been evacuated from three coastal districts of the state and moved to relief shelters,” said Banerjee.

Given the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, the state’s Disaster Management Minister Javed Khan spoke to the media about the measures being taken, including distributing more than two lakh masks among the evacuees and handing out personal protective equipment kits to the approximately 4,000 personnel from the State Disaster Relief Force.

It’s not just SDRF involved in preparing the cyclone; the National Disaster Response Force has been mobilised as well. In Odisha, 15 teams of the NDRF have been deployed, while in West Bengal, 19 have been deployed with two more on standby. NDRF chief Pradhan spoke to the media to shed light on the preparedness for the cyclone.

The IMD has warned that all fishing activities should be ceased from May 19 to May 20, as the sea will be too rough for vessels and going out onto the water could be hazardous for human life. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an emergency meeting to evaluate the best response to the cyclone.

In addition to the two states of West Bengal and Odisha, other states in the country’s North-East region have also issued a “very heavy rain warning”, including Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya. While there’s never a good time to experience what looks to be one of the most powerful cyclones we’ve witnessed, Amphan’s arrival in the middle of a pandemic has confirmed that 2020 is the worst year ever.