(Update 1: changes slug, adds casualties, other details)
By David Asta Alares
New Delhi/Dhaka, May 26 (EFE).- At least 12 people have been killed in eastern India and neighboring Bangladesh as “very severe” cyclone Yaas left behind a trail of destruction in the region on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of nearly two million people.
The India Meteorological Department said that Yaas made landfall in the eastern coastal state of Odisha around 8.30 am with sustained winds of 130-140 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 155 kph.
By Wednesday evening, Yaas had weakened into a cyclonic storm as it progressed inland towards the Indian state of Jharkhand, according to the IMD.
The chief minister of the state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, said in a virtual meeting that at least one person had been killed in the city of Digha on Wednesday, while two others had died in cyclone-related incidents in the state a day earlier.
At least three people were killed in Odisha, including two who were trapped under trees falling due to strong cyclone winds, while the third victim, a woman, had died as her house collapsed in the storm, local news agency PTI reported.
In neighboring Bangladesh, a 48-year-old woman died in the southern Bhola district after a tree branch fell on him, Maksudur Rahman, the office in-charge of the nearby Lalmohan police station, told EFE.
Meanwhile a four-year-old girl died by drowning near her house in the coastal Bagerhat district, local administration chief Delwar Hossain told EFE.
Madhabi Roy, the administration chief of the Bakerganj in the Barishal district, said that two children – aged 16 and two and a-half years respectively – had drowned as a storm surge hit the area.
In a similar incident, two other children had drowned due to flooding and storm surges in the Rajapur area of the Jhalakathi district, local police chief Shahidul Islam told EFE.
Ahead of the storm’s landfall, Indian authorities had carried out a massive evacuation drive in coastal areas anticipating heavy rain, flooding and destruction caused by powerful winds.
IMD Director General Mrutyonjay Mohapatra said that coastal areas of northern Odisha and the adjacent districts of West Bengal had been hit by 2-4 meters high tidal waves
The authorities evacuated 1.5 million people in West Bengal, where 300,000 houses were damaged and vast areas of farmland have been affected, while around 200,000 people had been moved to shelters in Odisha.
In Bangladesh, where the storm’s impact was lesser than India, around 14,000 people had moved to shelters on Tuesday night, although they returned to their houses the next morning, the deputy minister for disaster management, Enamur Rahman, said in a press conference.
Yaas comes a little over a week after another cyclone Tauktae left at least 145 dead on the western coast of India, which is facing a double crisis as the coronavirus death toll continues to rise in the country, with more than 4,000 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
Cyclones are a common occurrence in the Bay of Bengal, especially between April-May and October-November.
In May 2020, super-cyclone Amphan killed over 100 people in India and Bangladesh, becoming one of the deadliest storms in the region in the last few years.
However, helped by the minute-by-minute monitoring by Indian meteorological satellites, the two countries had managed to carry out timely evacuations of nearly three million people, preventing a repeat of the tragedy in 1999, when a similar cyclone had killed more than 9,000 people in Odisha. EFE