2.6M Forced to Flee Super-Cyclone —in a Pandemic

Amphan makes landfall around India-Bangladesh border
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2020 8:03 AM CDT
Super-Cyclone Forces 2.6M From Isolation to Shelters
The promenade along the Bay of Bengal coast stands deserted ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall, at Chandbali, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo)

A process is underway to move 2.6 million people from isolation to shelters in India and Bangladesh with a super-cyclone making landfall. Amphan, the first super-cyclone in the Bay of Bengal since 1999, has already claimed one life as it plowed into the India-Bangladesh border on Wednesday morning. A Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteer was helping with evacuations Wednesday when his boat capsized in strong winds, per the BBC. Officials fear the storm could be more deadly than Cyclone Sidr, which killed 3,500 people in 2007. Some areas are seeing wind gusts of 120mph. Severe flooding is expected, while a storm surge could push water 15 miles inland, reports the AP. India's weather department predicts storm surges could reach 16 feet high. Some 2.2 million people are being evacuated in Bangladesh, almost 300,000 in India's West Bengal state, and 148,486 in Odisha state.

An Odisha disaster management official said more shelters than usual were needed to allow people to keep distance, but some 242 of 800 centers typically used during floods or cyclones are already being used as coronavirus quarantine centers. Schools are reportedly being stocked with masks and hand sanitizer as a result. Still, some are wary of leaving their homes. "They … are afraid of going into a crowd where they could get infected," a fisherman in the seaside town of Digha, West Bengal, tells the AP. Amphan made landfall around the India-Bangladesh border Wednesday, about 2:30pm local time, per the Guardian. The storm is expected to move toward the West Bengal capital of Kolkata, home to 15 million people and 1,500 cases of COVID-19, where flooding is expected. It's forecast to move into Bangladesh on Thursday, and then into Bhutan. (More cyclone stories.)

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