scenes of “incredible devastation” after the passage of Cyclone Amphan

Accompanied by torrential rains and gusts of up to 185 km / h, the powerful cyclone Amphan hit Wednesday in eastern India and Bangladesh. A provisional assessment reports nine deaths in the two countries.

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Hundreds of flooded coastal villages, lost crops, uprooted trees and unusable infrastructure: the passage of Cyclone Amphan left scenes of “unprecedented devastation” in India and Bangladesh on Thursday.

The human toll of this cyclone, to date the most powerful of the XXIe century in the Bay of Bengal, still remains very uncertain due to the extent of disasters and telecommunications outages. The first official reports of the two countries currently state at least 22 dead, but this figure is possibly only very fragmented.

Appearing this weekend off India, Amphan (pronounced “um-pun”) made landfall late Wednesday afternoon south of the big city of Calcutta, accompanied by winds around 165 km / h and torrential rain. More than 3 million people had been evacuated and sheltered at its approach.

In Bangladesh, a storm surge up to 3 meters

“The cyclone did not kill people here. But it destroyed our livelihoods,” an official in the Bangladeshi town of Buri Goalini, where Amphan “left an incredible devastation,” told AFP.

The cyclone caused a storm surge (tidal wave) up to three meters high, which submerged over part of the coastline and caused heaps of salt water to surge through the villages.

“It caused huge destruction. Thousands of trees are uprooted. The dikes [qui protègent les villages de basse élévation et les élevages de crevettes] have given way in many places, flooding many villages, “said Anwar Hossain Howlader, a senior official in the Bangladeshi province of Khulna.

Night of terror in Calcutta

On the other side of the border, in India, the situation is identical and the damage also of great magnitude.

“Cyclone Amphan devastated the coastline of West Bengal. Thousands of houses were brought down, trees uprooted, roads submerged and crops destroyed,” Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister, told reporters. State.

After a night of terror, the 15 million inhabitants of Calcutta woke up to the spectacle of a city with flooded streets, cars filled with water sometimes to the windows and traffic lanes blocked by trees and electric poles fallen to the ground.

Cyclone Amphan weakened in the morning to the point of becoming a simple tropical depression, Indian meteorological services said.

Amphan had reached category 4 out of 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale on Monday, with winds of 200 km / h to 240 km / h. It is the most powerful cyclone to be born in the Bay of Bengal since 1999, when a cyclone killed 10,000 people in Odisha.

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 and implemented rapid evacuation policies.

Little respect for protective measures

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has made their work much more difficult this year. To prevent the spread of the virus, the authorities had called on the displaced to respect physical distance in shelters and to wear masks.

In practice, these precautionary measures have been little respected, noted AFP journalists. “The room is crowded and maintaining physical distance is impossible here. Everything is in the hands of God now”, explains this 25-year-old woman who had taken refuge with her 5-month-old son in a school in the Bangladeshi city of Dacope .

With AFP and Reuters

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