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Expecting a storm (artwork).
Expecting a storm (artwork).
Expecting a storm. (Digital artwork by Rishu Majumdar)

Environment

Cyclone Amphan Updates: Preventive Measures, Affected Regions, and More

The ‘super cyclone’ Amphan hit the coast of Bengal starting around 2:30 pm Wednesday and has started moving on its predicted path. 

In Kolkata, a teenage girl has been critically injured after being hit with a tin shed. The wind speed of the cyclone’s eye is more than 165 km/s, according to data provided by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). 

The cyclone on its course in Kolkata. (Source: Poulami Ghosh)

The cyclone Amphan has also touched grounds in coastal Orissa where it has caused heavy rainfalls. Hundreds of trees have been uprooted and the storm has already claimed two lives.

The affected areas are likely to be Andaman and Nicobar Islands, West Bengal, Odisha, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. The origin of this cyclone can be traced back to a low-pressure area situated over the Bay of Bengal.

The eye of the storm. (Source: NASA)

The IMD Chief had mentioned that its intensity is most around the Sunderbans in West Bengal. The cyclone is supposed to reach as a depression, which is a state of unstable conditions caused by the sudden formation of a low-pressure area over the surface in North-Eastern states such as Assam, which has been witnessing heavy rainfall.

Preventive measures

The Bangladesh government has evacuated nearly 20 lakh people, while India has evacuated nearly 6.5 lakh people.  

The government of Odisha has deployed the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and the National Disaster Response Force in the case of any emergencies. It has also shifted nearly 1600 pregnant women to various hospitals in order to ensure their safety. Power backup arrangements have been made in hospitals with an appropriate stock of food and medicines, along with safety and PPE kits. On May 18, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had put a target of zero casualties before the administration.

The West Bengal government has set up around 100 relief shelters spread across the coast and has started using schools and colleges as shelter points. They have distributed more than two lakh masks and PPE kits to the deployed State Disaster Relief Force personnel. More evacuations are currently underway and are being planned out as per the cyclone’s course.

Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal

The cyclone Amphan emerges in the Bay of Bengal  — the shallow, concave bay, where water, pushed by the strong winds of a cyclone, gets funneled as a storm and moves up the bay. 

Climate change may also have a role to play in this, especially in raising the temperatures of the water. According to Roxy Mathew Koll, author and scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, high temperatures are conducive to the intensification of cyclones.

“The BoB has been particularly warm. Some of the buoys have registered maximum surface temperatures of 32-34°C consecutively, for the first two weeks of May. These are record temperatures driven by climate change — we have never seen such high values until now,” he explained.

In November 1970, Cyclone Bhola raged in the Bay of Bengal and claimed half a million lives Marking it as one of the deadliest storms in history.

The last super cyclone to have hit this part of the country was in 2002, leading to 173 fatalities in India and Bangladesh. The West Bengal government blamed the meteorological department for issuing the warning too late, due to which appropriate measures could not be taken. Soon after that storm, the Indian Red Cross Society and the Participating National Societies began to assess and plan for such situations.

There has already been large scale damage to the environment in all of the affected areas due to the high wind speed, going up to 72kmph. The Bengal government has made efforts to ensure that tigers from the Sundarbans do not escape towards the nearby human settlements. Light poles and buildings are at high risk as well.

Hundreds of Rohingya refugees have been moved to shelters amidst the cyclone alert. They were living on a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal. 306 members of the Rohingya community who have been rescued this month have been moved from Bhasan Char Island to nearby centers. The world’s largest refugee camp is currently facing a level nine danger.

On Wednesday, India recorded its biggest spike in coronavirus cases, that is, 5,200. The total number of cases in the country has hit one lakh, and it must brace for a greater spike after the cyclone due to the lack of opportunity of social distancing and mass movement of people as they seek shelter from the storm.

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