Six killed as cyclone lashes India and Bangladesh
Heavy rain and a high tide have lashed parts of eastern India and neighbouring Bangladesh, killing at least six people, as a cyclone pushed ashore in an area where more than 1.1 million people were evacuated during a coronavirus outbreak.
Cyclone Yaas had already caused two deaths and damaged homes as heavy rain pounded Odisha and West Bengal states before it made landfall late on Wednesday 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 more people were killed when they were hit by uprooted trees and another person died in a house collapse in Odisha state.
The “very severe cyclonic storm” packed sustained winds of up to 87mph and gusts of up to 97mph 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 southern Patuakhali district, more than 20 villages in Rangabali went underwater after two river embankments were washed away, said Mashfaqur Rahman, the area’s top administrator. He said at least 15,000 people had taken refuge in cyclone shelters.
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.
Ms Banerjee told reporters that 20,000 mud huts and temporary shelters for the poor had been damaged along the coast.
On Tuesday, a tornado snapped electricity lines that electrocuted two people and damaged 40 houses, she said.
More than 6.5in of rain have fallen in the Chandabali and Paradip regions of Odisha state since Tuesday, the meteorological department said. Tidal waves of up to 13ft were forecast.
Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar airports were shut and train services cancelled. Fishing trawlers and boats were told to take shelter.
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.
Odisha’s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, appealed to people in shelters to wear double masks and maintain social distancing, adding: “We have to face both the challenges simultaneously.”
Thousands of emergency personnel have been deployed to help with evacuations and rescue operations, said SN 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.