Cyclone makes landfall amid India’s Covid surge
Heavy rain and a high tide lashed parts of India’s eastern coast as a cyclone pushed ashore in an area where more than 1.1 million people have evacuated amid a devastating coronavirus surge.
Cyclone Yaas already had caused two deaths and damage to homes as severe weather and rains affected Odisha and West Bengal states before the storm began making landfall around midday on Wednesday.
The “very severe cyclonic storm” has sustained winds of up to 87mph that are gusting up to 97mph, the India Meteorological Department said.
“The landfall process of the storm has started, centred nearly 50 kilometres (30 miles) south-east of Balasore in Odisha state,” it said.
Heavy rain and the sea tide flooded parts of coastal areas in West Bengal and Odisha states.
Television images showed knee-deep water flooding the beach area of Digha, a resort town in West Bengal state. Palm trees whipped back and forth amid strong wind gusts.
A tornado snapped electricity lines that electrocuted two people and damaged 40 houses in West Bengal’s Hooghly district on Tuesday, the top state elected official Mamata Banerjee said.
Kolkata airport was and train services were cancelled before the storm as a precaution, the railroad department said.
The cyclone has dumped more than 6.5 inches of rain in Chandabali and Paradip regions of Odisha state since Tuesday, the meteorological department said. Tidal waves of up to 13 feet were forecast to flood some low-lying areas.
At least 20 districts in West Bengal state were expected to feel the brunt of the storm. Fishing trawlers and boats were told to take shelter.
The cyclone coming amid a devastating 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.
Odisha’s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, appealed to people being moved to cyclone shelters to wear double masks and maintain social distancing.
“We have to face both the challenges simultaneously,” Patnaik said.
Thousands of emergency personnel have been deployed to help evacuate people and prepare for possible rescue operations, said SN Pradhan, director of India’s National Disaster Response Force.