Despite having lost its power in recent hours, Cyclone Amphan remains the most powerful to form in two decades in the Bay of Bengal. The evacuation of the population is made more complex with the Covid-19 epidemic.
Strong winds of up to 185 km / h and storm surges of up to five meters high. Cyclone Amphan (which is pronounced “um-pun”) is expected Wednesday, May 20, around 6 p.m. local (12:30 p.m. GMT), at the border between India and Bangladesh, south of the city of Calcutta .
Appearing this weekend at sea, Amphan reached category 4 of 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale on Monday, with winds between 200 and 240 km / h, before being downgraded to category 3. It is the cyclone the most powerful to be born in the Bay of Bengal since 1999. That year, a cyclone had killed 10,000 people in Odisha.
“A devastating wind speed”
Bangladesh has sheltered 1.5 million people living in low-lying coastal areas. On the Indian side, more than 300,000 people were evacuated in the state of West Bengal (east) and 20,000 others in the neighboring region of Odisha.
Despite the cyclone’s loss of power as it approaches the coast, the Indian and Bangladeshi authorities expect immense material damage. “It is a devastating wind speed and can cause large-scale destruction. It can uproot trees and damage a lot of infrastructure,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the meteorological department of India.
The countries of the region have learned the lessons of the devastating cyclones of previous decades: they have built thousands of shelters for the population in recent years and have developed policies for rapid evacuation.
Risks of promoting the spread of Covid-19
Their task is however complicated this year by the coronavirus pandemic, the displacement of populations likely to promote the spread of Covid-19. National confinements have been in place in India and Bangladesh since late March.
Bangladesh has opened more than 13,000 high pressure shelters, almost triple the usual number, to keep them less loaded. In both India and Bangladesh, authorities have asked evacuees to wear masks indoors.
“We have told people to keep physical distance in shelters because of the coronavirus,” said Shah Kamal, head of the Bangladesh disaster management authority.
If the frequency and intensity of cyclones have increased in recent years in the Bay of Bengal, a phenomenon partially attributed to global warming, human balance sheets are generally much lower than in the past thanks to a more developed monitoring system and well-tried preventive measures.