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Cyclone Amphan made landfall between West Bengal and Bangladesh, washing away Indian islands to the mainland and uprooting trees and electricity poles in six-and-a-half hours.

Cyclone Amphan

By Upasana Saha, India-based Program Officer

May 21, 2020

Cyclone Amphan made landfall close to Sundarbans between West Bengal and Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon, washing away Indian islands to the mainland and uprooting trees and electricity poles in six-and-a-half hours that left Kolkata and most of south Bengal pulverized. Early reports show the cyclone claimed 10 to 12 lives in West Bengal and destroyed over 5,500 house. West Bengal’s chief minister shared the impact of Amphan was worse than the coronavirus pandemic and claimed that there could have been 1 trillion Rs (rupees) worth of damage due to the cyclone in the region.

In the overwhelming Covid-19 world, neither of the two Indian states, West Bengal and Orissa, nor Bangladesh is ready to deal with another uncontrollable situation. Given the damage to power, road, housing, and other infrastructure, evacuees are likely to be stranded in cyclone shelters for days, if not weeks. Since cyclone shelters are designed to maximize much needed shelter by packing as many people together as possible, the need for distancing, one of the key measures to contain Covid-19 spread, may simply not be possible. UNICEF said the storm had put 19 million children at risk, not only from the direct effects of floods and wind damage but also from the potential spread of COVID-19 in crowded evacuation shelters.

Comparatively, Covid-19 has pushed climate change to the margins of global attention. Recently a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other premier global higher education institutes write in Nature, that pandemic preparedness and climate change action—along with related disaster preparedness—can no longer be mutually exclusive. Studies and data analyses show that storms, flooding, and droughts will likely cause the displacement of millions over the next 12-18 months, with low-income nations in the Global South bearing the worst brunt.

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