AT LEAST 100 people are believed to have died from the deadliest “super-cyclone” to hit the Bay of Bengal so far this century, and millions more have lost homes or seen their livelihoods destroyed.
Super-cyclone Amphan hit Bangladesh and India on Wednesday of last week, bringing winds of more than 120 miles per hour and waves five metres high, destroying homes, sanitation, and farmland, putting people at further risk of increased spread of coronavirus.
Christian Aid’s Bangladesh Country Director, Pankaj Kumar, said: “Amphan has left huge devastation in its wake, with homes, communications, crops, and livelihoods destroyed. Approximately 80 per cent of tin-roofed homes in Satkira district have been blown away, and families are struggling to find clean water and food.”
The Acting CEO of World Vision, Graham Strong, said that, coming on top of Covid-19, it was a “double disaster”.
More than two million people were evacuated from their homes in Bangladesh before the cyclone, and half a million people moved from low-lying places in West Bengal and Odisha in India.
Mr Strong said that households had faced a difficult choice between congregating with others in the safety of a shelter, risking the spread of coronavirus, and risking the cyclone.
He said: “Some 12,078 cyclone shelters were ready to accommodate the evacuees in line with Covid-19 prevention measures. And health complexes were prepared for the isolation of evacuees with Covid-19-like symptoms. As in India, our teams are focused on meeting the immediate needs of those affected.”
One resident, Sajjad Qarim of Mandarmani village in West Bengal, India, said that the mandatory use of masks and social distancing to mitigate Covid-19 had had to be abandoned.
“Over 30 people are now staying in two rooms, as several houses were destroyed. The devastation was serious, as many houses are made of mud.”
No deaths from the super-cyclone were reported among Rohingya refugees in the camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where there has been an outbreak of coronavirus (News, 22 May). Refugees who were being held in quarantine on a low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal were moved to storm shelters.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state, asked parishes to open their churches and rooms to people left homeless by the storm, feed them, and assist anyone in need.
In a letter, he asked them to do “whatever is possible” within their capacity “to help the needy urgently”, “irrespective of caste and creed”. “It is time to respond to this challenge,” he said, urging relief workers to “observe strictly the Covid-19 guidelines”, such as social distancing and wearing face masks.
There were also concerns about the fate of wild animals in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world which is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. Fresh-water pools have been flooded with sea water, contaminating the water supply of villagers and animals who rely on them.