Cyclone Amphan Hits Bangladesh and India
Cyclone Amphan hit the coasts of Bangladesh and India on Wednesday, taking out utilities and bridges connecting Indian islands to its mainland.
Although the storm was originally classified as a “super cyclone,” according to The Washington Post, it weakened prior to landfall. Super cyclones, with sustained winds of 138 miles per hour or higher—the highest ranking on the India Meteorological Department’s Tropical Cyclone Intensity scale—are equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which have winds of 130 to 156 miles per hour and 157 miles per hour or higher, respectively.
Gaining strength as it traveled over the Bay of Bengal, the storm made landfall on India’s eastern coast at around 4 p.m. on 20 May, measuring wind speeds between 100 to 115 miles per hour. The strongest storm since a 1999 super cyclone, Amphan’s destruction has resulted in at least 13 deaths in Bangladesh and 72 in India’s West Bengal state, according to the Associated Press.
One point of concern has been the storm surge, with waters up to 16 feet above normal tides. Another danger comes from high winds that have snapped power lines, decimated crops, and uprooted trees and building roofs.
The subsequent power losses were experienced both along India’s shore and further inland. In Odisha, an eastern state, more than 3 million people experienced blackouts. Parts of Kolkata—one of India’s largest cities, with a population of almost 15 million people—were also without electricity, according to the BBC.
As India was looking into technological advances in predicting cyclones in 2019, India’s Minister for Science & Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, noted that 2018 and 2019 had been subject to “above normal” cyclones developing over the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. According to Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Topical Meteorology, rising surface temperatures for those ocean basins contribute to storms’ strength as cyclones gain energy from the water’s surface and “higher temperatures can supercharge a cyclone so that it intensifies rapidly,” reported IndiaSpend.
Evacuation efforts were hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both countries are still under lockdown, The New York Times reports, and coastal residents were apprehensive of crowded shelters that were previously used as quarantine shelters, with some of these havens capable of holding up to 5,000 people. India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported it had surpassed 100,000 reported infections of the novel coronavirus.