Storm Amphan viewed by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Monday night. Image has been annotated by Business Insider.
Hundreds of thousands of people in India are in danger as a category-4 super cyclone heads towards the east coast, as the country is still grappling with a serious coronavirus outbreak.
The super cyclone, dubbed “Amphan,” is set to hit the West Bengal coast on Wednesday.
The storm is carrying extremely heavy rains and wind speeds that could reach up to around 105 miles per hour when it hits the land, according to the India Meteorological Department.
The country’s director general of the National Disaster Relief Force, Satya Narayan Pradhan, said that as many as 260,000 people in West Bengal and the state of Odisha may need to be evacuated, CNN reported.
The cyclone also threatens the neighboring nation of Bangladesh. Millions could be uprooted by the storm, the BBC reported.
At its height on Monday night, the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center recorded wind speeds of up to 166 miles per hour in the Bay of Bengal.
Since then, Super Cyclone Amphan has eased slightly and has been downgraded to a category-4 storm.
NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite provided a visible image of the huge Tropical Cyclone Amphan on May 18, just off the eastern coast of India. Credit: NASA Worldview
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority on Monday, according to The Times of India. The West Bengal government halted port operations and began evacuating people from the coast on Tuesday morning, the newspaper reported.
Narayan Pradhan said that cyclone shelter capacity will be reduced under coronavirus social distancing orders, CNN reported. While West Bengal usually has capacity for 500,000 people, this may be reduced to 200,000.
The cyclone comes as India eases its coronavirus lockdown, although the virus is still at a peak.
On Sunday, the country reported around 5,000 new cases, its highest number to date. This was followed by around 4,600 new cases on Monday, its second-highest figure.
In total, India has reported more than 100,000 cases of the virus and 3,164 deaths.
Clouds cover the skies over the river Ganges ahead of Cyclone Amphan, in Kolkata, India, May 19, 2020.
Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
Although the country’s lockdown period has been officially extended to May 31, many measures have been relaxed, according to The Indian Express.
Offices, markets and shops have been allowed to open, and some inter-state travel on buses is allowed, the paper reported. Entertainment and religious venues will remain shut. Districts are being demarcated into “red” “green” and “orange” zones, with differing levels of movement allowed for each.
Amphan is the second super cyclone to hit the west coast of India. In 1999, Odisha was devastated by a cyclone that killed nearly 10,000 people, according to the Associated Press.
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