Super cyclone Amphan (pronounced Um-pun; Thai for sky) is expected to make landfall in the Sunderbans between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya (Bangladesh) by afternoon to evening on Wednesday. The cyclone will have a wind speed of 155-165 km/hr rising to 185 km/hr, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
Amphan is the first super cyclone since 1999 cyclone which devastated Odisha and killed more than 9,000 people. However, according to IMD chief Mrityunjay Mohapatra, Amphan is expected to reduce in intensity and will be an 'extremely severe cyclonic storm'.
The states of West Bengal and Odisha will face the brunt of the super cyclone with heavy to extremely heavy rainfall expected in the two states. Amphan will also cause heavy rainfall in Assam, Sikkim and Meghalaya. 11 districts in West Bengal and three districts in Odisha will be severely affected. South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas will witness a storm surge of upto 4.7 metres which will inundate low-lying areas while East Medinipur will witness storm surge of upto 4 metres over low-lying areas.
SUCS AMPHAN about 95 km south-southeast of Digha (West Bengal) at 1230 IST of 20th May. To cross West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts between Digha (west Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) close to Sunderbans. Landfall process to commence from today late afternoon (4pm onwards) pic.twitter.com/dbq9EOhSqm— India Met. Dept. (@Indiametdept) May 20, 2020
The IMD has warned that telephone and electrical poles might be uprooted causing extensive damage while road and rail travel will be disrupted. The Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport has stopped operations until 5 am on Thursday while the New Delhi-Howrah Special train has been cancelled. Crops, orchards and plantations will see excessive damage as will thatched houses.
People living in coastal regions have been asked to stay indoors and fisherfolk have been asked not to venture out into the Bay of Bengal. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked people living in coastal regions not to step out of their houses until the all-clear on Thursday. Around 3,00,000 people have been moved to storm shelter according to CM Banerjee.
The National Disaster Response Force has deployed 40 teams in Odisha and West Bengal to aid in emergency services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a challenge for the states. NDRF chief Satya Narayan Pradhan has asked states to mention social distancing in shelters. "We have told Bengal and Odisha, social distancing has to be maintained strictly in cyclone shelters. If a shelter has space for 1,000, then only 500 should be allowed," told NDTV.
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