By SM.20 May, 2020
NEW DELHI: Super Cyclone Amphan, likely to make landfall in West Bengal tomorrow afternoon, has weakened into an extremely severe cyclonic storm, triggering heavy rain and gusts of wind in Odisha and rain in some parts of Bengal. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief SN Pradhan today told reporters they face the "double challenge" of the coronavirus pandemic and a natural disaster. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she will ask the railways to stop running special "Shramik" trains for migrants to the state till Thursday. The cyclonic storm is likely to cross West Bengal"s Digha and Bangladesh"s Hatiya today.
Forty teams of the NDRF have been deployed in West Bengal and Odisha to deal with any emergency situation, Pradhan said, adding Cyclone Amphan is "a second disaster coming amid COVID-19 pandemic" and it needs continuous monitoring.
The NDRF has learnt from its experience of handling cyclone Fani and has deployed tree-pole cutters in areas that are expected to be hit the most severe. "Wireless sets, satellite phones and other communication equipment are also with our teams. Preparation is on par with facing a super cyclone like the one that hit the Odisha coast in 1999," the NDRF chief said.
Cyclone Amphan developed into a super cyclone over the Bay of Bengal on Monday and has potential to cause extensive damage in the coastal districts. This is the second super cyclone over the Bay of Bengal in two decades.
Three lakh people have been evacuated from coastal areas in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said today. "All precautionary measures are taken to deal with any eventuality arising out of the super cyclone. I had a word with 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," she told reporters.
As at 6:30 pm yesterday, Cyclone Amphan lay centred over west-central Bay of Bengal, about 420 km south of Paradip in Odisha, 570 km south-southwest of Digha and 700 km south-southwest of Khepupara in Bangladesh, Bhubaneswar meteorological centre director said HR Biswas said.
India Meteorological Department director general Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said since the super cyclone is gradually weakening, its impact is unlikely to be severe in Odisha. However, coastal districts like Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore are likely to be battered by heavy rain coupled with high-speed winds from today.
Odisha special relief commissioner PK Jena said evacuation of people living in low-lying areas, thatched and mud structures in the coastal districts is underway and the process will be completed today. He said the state government has made arrangements for evacuating over 11 lakh people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was praying for everyone"s safety after chairing a virtual meeting on preparations on Monday. "Reviewed the preparedness regarding the situation due to cyclone "Amphan." The response measures as well as evacuation plans were discussed. I pray for everyone"s safety and assure all possible support from the Central Government," PM Modi tweeted.
Although not predicted to be on the direct path of the storm, south-eastern Bangladesh is home to almost a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, most living in vast camps of shacks. The UN said emergency items such as food, tarpaulins and water purification tablets had been stockpiled.
A typhoon, tornadoes and flooding killed 139,000 in Bangladesh in 1991, while in 2008 Cyclone Nargis left 138,000 people dead or missing in Myanmar. While the storms" frequency and intensity have increased - blamed partly on climate change - deaths have fallen thanks to faster evacuations, better forecasting and more shelters, news agency AFP reported.