powerful cyclone has pounded eastern India and Bangladesh, killing at least 14 people and destroying thousands of homes, officials said, leaving authorities struggling to mount relief efforts amid a surging coronavirus outbreak.
“The situation is more worrying than the coronavirus pandemic. We don’t know how to handle it,” Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal – the worst-hit Indian state – told reporters late on Wednesday.
Banerjee said at least 10 people had died in the state, and two districts been completely battered by one of the strongest storms to hit the region in several years, Reuters news agency reported.
“Area after area has been devastated. Communications are disrupted,” she said, adding that although 500,000 people had been evacuated, state authorities had not entirely anticipated the ferocity of the storm.
In West Bengal’s capital city, Kolkata, strong winds upturned cars and felled trees and electricity poles. Parts of the city were plunged into darkness.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, at least four people were killed, officials said, with power supplies cut off in some districts.
Authorities there had shifted around 2.4 million people to more than 15,000 storm shelters this week.
Bangladeshi officials also said they had moved hundreds of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, living on a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, to shelter.
The region, with 58 million people in the two bordering countries, has some of the most vulnerable communities in South Asia: poor fishing communities in the Sunderbans and over a million Rohingya refugees living in crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
‘Everything is destroyed’
Houses “look like they have been run over by a bulldozer,” said Babul Mondal, 35, a villager on the edge of the Sunderbans, a vast mangrove forest area home to India’s biggest tiger population.
“Everything is destroyed.”