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Cyclone Amphan Amid A Pandemic

BY: Sakib Tariq

Millions living in the coastal regions of Bangladesh and the Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal have evacuated their homes in anticipation of the most powerful storm the Bay of Bengal has ever seen. Cyclone Amphan began ravishing the land on Wednesday, May 20 at 09:00 GMT. The fierce storm is set to bring upon colossal damages to houses, crop fields, and power links.

The storm that was once a category 5 super cyclone has lost some of its intensity over the past few days but maintains the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane with maximum expected wind speeds of 170 kilometers per hour. Power supplies in entire districts of Bangladesh have been cut off, and at least 4 cyclone related deaths have been confirmed as of Wednesday afternoon. West Bengal’s capital city, Kolkata, has experienced the wrath of the storm as well. Powerful winds have flipped cars upside down and torn down trees. A woman was crushed by a fallen tree near the major port city. “A crisis on top of a crisis,” said Pankaj Anand of the humanitarian aid organization, Oxfam. West Bengal officials say that cyclone shelters that could once hold 500,000 people have been reduced to a mere 200,000 person capacity because of social distancing rules. Despite an adjusted natural disaster response plan, many shelters are still only half-filled, as many are wary of their chances to be infected with the Coronavirus.

Both India and Bangladesh are struggling to curb the threat of the virus on their people. Cases have risen in both nations, with India surpassing 100,000 cases and Bangladesh reaching 23,000 confirmed infections. Balancing responses to both issues simultaneously has proven to be difficult, the special relief commissioner for the state of Odisha explained. “We have to strike a balance between the two and evacuate people wherever it is extremely essential, otherwise people are better off in their homes,” he said.

The presumed path of the fierce storm passes through some of the most vulnerable people in all of the Indian Subcontinent. Impoverished fishing communities living in the Sunderbans, and more than a million Rohingya refugees residing in the overcrowded relief camps in Cox’s Bazaar are expected to be affected by the brutal cyclone. “We are really very worried,” said Haigo Magtrayo, a worker of the International Committee of the Red Cross. One COVID-19 case has already been confirmed in the refugee camps and with the storm looming over the region, the combination of the two could make for a new humanitarian crisis.


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