An extremely severe cyclone packing winds of up to 190 kmph Wednesday rampaged through coastal Odisha and West Bengal, dumping heavy rain, swamping homes and farmland. The severe cyclone has left at least 12 people in West Bengal dead, officials said. No casualities have been reported in Odisha.
While a man and a woman were killed when trees came crashing down on them in North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal, a 13-year-old girl died in a similar incident in adjoining Howrah, officials said. Three persons were killed in Hooghly and North 24 Paraganas districts due to electrocution, they said. A woman and her seven-year-old son were killed in the Regent park area of Kolkata after a tree fell on them, the officials said. They said a person was killed in Kolkata after being hit by a flying object during the storm.
Senior state officials said it was too early to estimate the toll on life or damage to property as the hardest hit areas were still not accessible.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been monitoring the situation at state secretariat Nabanna since Tuesday night, said the impact of Amphan was "worse than coronavirus".
"Area after area has been ruined. I have experienced a war-like situation today. At least 10-12 people have died. Nandigram, Ramnagar....the two districts of North and South 24 Parganas are destroyed," she said.
After making landfall at 2.30 p.m. between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya island in Bangladesh, cyclone Amphan cut a swathe through the coastal areas, flattening fragile dwellings, uprooting trees and electric poles. At least 6.58 lakh people were evacuated in West Bengal and Odisha before the cyclone struck.
"The forward sector of the wall cloud region is entering into land in West Bengal. The intensity of the cyclone near its centre as the landfall process started was recorded at 160-170 kmph, gusting to 190 kmph," the weather department said.
NDRF chief S N Pradhan told a press conference in New Delhi that 20 teams of the federal disaster response force had already begun road clearing operations in Odisha, while the 19 units deployed in West Bengal were shifting people to safety.
Quoting figures made available by the two states, Pradhan said over 5 lakh people were evacuated in West Bengal and more than 1.58 lakh in Odisha.
TV footage showed gigantic tidal waves crashing into a seawall in Digha, close to the landfall site.
Thick sheets of rain blurred the vast coastline in the two states and surging waters engulfed mud-and-thatch houses, flattening them in a trice.
Heavy machinery was moved in to clear the roads blocked by falling trees. A video clip of an under-construction Kolkata skyscraper showed huge aluminium sheets flying like bird feathers in the air.
The whole cyclonic system reached the landmass by 7 pm, before moving forward in fury.
According to reports from North and South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore, roofs of thatched houses were blown away, electric poles got twisted and hundreds of trees broken and uprooted. Streets and homes in low lying areas of Kolkata were swamped with rainwater.
Alipore in central Kolkata recorded a massive 222 mm of rainfall and Dumdum 194 mm between 8 am and 8:30 pm. Even when the rain stopped in most parts of Kolkata after 9 pm, high-velocity winds continued to sweep the metropolis and its satellite towns.
Almost the entire city was plunged into darkness since the evening as electric supply either got snapped due to rain and wind or was suspended as a precautionary measure. Cell phone services were disrupted in many places.
Despite losing its force a bit since Tuesday, the storm, which was categorised as super cyclone at one point of time, left the two eastern states on edge as it hollered on its destructive path.
Mamata Banerjee said the enormity of the devastation will become clearer by Thursday when the storm will have passed over the state.
Trail of destruction in Odisha
In Odisha, intense rainfall was recorded in several areas of Puri, Khurda, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Ganjam, Ganjam, Bhadrak and Balasore districts since Tuesday.
The rains and high-velocity winds ebbed away by late Wednesday night but not before causing massive damage to standing crops, plantations and infrastructure.
Tidal surge of up to five metres occurred in North and South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts of West Bengal, inundating vast tracts of land, officials said.
The turbulence will likely extend to Assam and Meghalaya, triggering heavy to very heavy rain on Thursday.
To weaken into deep depression
Amphan, a Thai name for sky, is the most severe storm in the Bay of Bengal since the Odisha super cyclone storm in 1999.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) Director General Mrityunjay Mohapatra, who jointly addressed the media with Pradhan, said gale-strength winds speeding at 160-170 kmph were pounding South and North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts and could be gusting up to 185 kmph.
He said the wall of the eye of the monster cyclone, the most explosive part of a cyclonic system, triggered copious rain in the three districts. The eye of the storm itself was 30 km in diameter, he said.
Mohapatra said the intensity of the rain and winds accompanying it could deceptively look like ebbing away briefly, but will surge afresh once the rear sector of the storm has reached the landmass.
Mohapatra said since the time the depression formed over the Bay of Bengal on May 20 till the cyclone made the landfall, the IMDs predictions about the path it will take and the timing was accurate and helped the disaster response machinery strategise and execute the plans to minimise the damage effectively.
The cyclonic storm will get weaker while crossing over Nadia and Murshidabad in West Bengal later tonight before entering Bangladesh as a deep depression and dissipating.
Update: In its latest bulletin, IMD said, "Cyclonic Storm Amphan lay over Bangladesh at 0530 hrs IST of today (Thursday); to weaken into a Deep Depression during next three hours."