Cyclone Yaas lashes India, Bangladesh

Heavy rain and a high tide have lashed parts of eastern India and neighbouring Bangladesh as a cyclone pushed ashore in an area where more than 1.1 million people were evacuated during a devastating coronavirus outbreak.

At least six people were reported dead on Wednesday.

Cyclone Yaas had already caused two deaths and damaged homes as heavy rain pounded Odisha and West Bengal states before it made landfall in the late morning.

Another person died in a house collapse in West Bengal state on Wednesday, said the state’s top elected official, Mamata Banerjee. The Press Trust of India news agency said two people were killed when they were hit by uprooted trees and another person died in a house collapse in Odisha state. There was no official confirmation of the report.

The “very severe cyclonic storm” packed sustained winds of 130-140km/h and gusts of up to 155km/h when it made landfall, the India Meteorological Department said. With the storm now almost fully on land, winds were expected to weaken.

In Bangladesh, thousands of people in 200 villages were marooned as their homes, shops and farms were flooded by tidal surges.

In India, television images showed knee-deep water flooding the beachfront and other areas of Digha, a resort town in West Bengal. Wind gusts whipped palm trees back and forth, and water overflowed several river banks.

More than 17cm of rain have fallen in the Chandabali and Paradip regions of Odisha state since Tuesday, the meteorological department said. Tidal waves of up to four metres were forecast..

The cyclone, coming amid a coronavirus surge, complicates India’s efforts to deal with both after another storm, Cyclone Tauktae, hit India’s west coast last week and killed more than 140 people.

Thousands of emergency personnel have been deployed to help with evacuations and rescue operations, said S.N. Pradhan, director of India’s National Disaster Response Force.

The air force and navy were also on standby.

A year ago, the most powerful cyclone in more than a decade hit eastern India and killed nearly 100 people.

Some of the deadliest tropical cyclones on record have occurred in the Bay of Bengal. A 1999 super cyclone killed around 10,000 people and devastated large parts of Odisha.

Due to improved forecasts and better relief coordination, the death toll from Cyclone Phailin – an equally intense storm in 2013 – was fewer than 50, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.


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