Cyclone Amphan wreaks havoc in India, Bangladesh, killing at least 22

Cyclone Amphan, one of the most powerful storms to hit South Asia in recent years, killed at least 22 people and left a trail of destruction in India and Bangladesh, officials said Thursday.

Amphan destroyed thousands of homes, uprooted trees and led to severe flooding, leaving authorities struggling to mount relief operations amid coronavirus outbreaks in both countries.

India‘s eastern state of West Bengal took the brunt of the storm that barrelled into the coast on Wednesday evening with heavy rain, packing winds up to 185 kilometres per hour (km/h).

The extent of damage was becoming clearer Thursday morning, with television footage from state capital Kolkata showing extensive damage to infrastructure and roads, upturned cars and felled electric poles.

At least 12 people died in the state in incidents of house and tree collapses, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said. Another person died in the neighbouring state of Odisha.

The cyclone had travelled inland into Bangladesh, where nine more deaths were confirmed in six coastal districts, according to disaster management official Nitay Dey Sarkar. Most of them died after trees fell on them.

Many low-lying areas in coastal districts and offshore islands experienced water surge up to 5 metres above the astronomical tide, the Bangladesh meteorological department said.

Amphan was a disaster bigger than Covid-19, Banerjee said.

“It is a catastrophe … The whole southern part of the state has been affected. We are shocked. It will take three to four days to assess the damage,” she said.

Portions of several old and dilapidated buildings came crashing down in Kolkata that saw winds with speeds up to 120 km/h.

There was power outage in large parts of Bangladesh and West Bengal including Kolkata.

The Kolkata airport, which had been shut ahead of the storm, was left flooded and many structures within damaged. At least two hangars had collapsed, damaging the aircraft inside.

Footage showed big waves crashing into a seawall in Digha and Sunderbans region, a vast mangrove forest straddling India and Bangladesh.

“Many areas are devastated with no water supplies. In our village everything has been flattened by the terrible storm,” a local near the cyclone landfall site of Digha told broadcaster NDTV.

Disaster management authorities in Bangladesh and India had evacuated more than 3 million people.

Domestic media reports said while mass evacuations helped, the death toll could rise as many villagers had remained home sincethey did not want to leave their cattle and livestock behind.

Locals also said state authorities had not anticipated the ferocity of the storm, particularly its intensity over Kolkata.

India’s National Disaster Response Force had launched relief operations Thursday and hundreds of its workers were clearing roads of trees and electricity pylons that blocked traffic.

Amphan was the second “super cyclone” to form in the north-eastern Indian Ocean in two decades before it weakened in intensity on Tuesday. By Thursday, it was considered a tropical depression still producing heavy rains in places.

Cyclones often form over the Bay of Bengal between April and November, bringing widespread destruction and flooding to India‘s southern and eastern coasts. In 1999, a super cyclone struck Odisha, claiming 10,000 lives.