Deadly Cyclone Amphan Heads Straight for South Asia Amid Height of COVID-19

Wednesday, May 20

By Rae Avery

The people of India and Bangladesh, doing their best to implement safe COVID-19 social distancing measures, are now facing Cyclone Amphan, the equivalent of a Category 3 Atlantic hurricane, and what the Indian Meteorological Department has labeled a “super cyclonic storm.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of Monday, Bangladesh reported at least 22,268 active cases of Coronavirus and 328 related deaths. India has reported a staggering 96,169 cases and 3029 deaths. This would be bad enough, but Monday, India reported the highest number of new cases (over 5000) they’ve experienced since the outbreak began affecting the country. The measures in place have not yet begun to stem the tide of Coronavirus there, or even to plateau it.

On top of this, the tropical storm is heading toward many impoverished, densely inhabited regions, notable for dubious and unsound infrastructure at the best of times.

Cyclone Amphan would bring maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, with gusting at 200 miles per hour. It would also bring a deadly storm surge (rising of the sea) of up to 16 feet, with waves forming on top of it. According to public alerts being issued along the coast, expected damage could include total destruction of kutcha houses (rudimentary, one-room houses, common in rural areas), damage to sturdier houses and buildings, widespread damage to standing crops, extensive uprooting of communication and power poles and trees, as well as the potential threat of flying objects.

Generally, the main source of fatalities from tropical cyclones is flooding, both from storm surges on the coast and heavy rainfall inland, but this is without a global pandemic to worry about.

Bangladesh is also home to Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee settlement, which has just reported its first cases of COVID-19. According to Daniel P. Sullivan, a representative of Refugees International, “The prevalence of underlying health conditions among refugees and the deteriorating sanitary conditions sure to come with the looming monsoon and flooding season make for a witch’s brew of conditions in which the virus is sure to thrive.”

India’s National Disaster Response Force has reported that authorities are sending ten official teams to the state of Odisha, where they hope to evacuate 1 million people, and seven teams to West Bengal to begin their evacuation process. An additional twenty teams remain on standby.

 

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