By Sarwar Kashani and Azad Majumder
New Delhi/Dhaka, May 21 (efe-epa).– At least 22 people have been killed, thousands of houses destroyed and millions forced out of their homes in India and Bangladesh as cyclone Amphan left a trail of death and destruction in one of the most populous regions in the world.
In India, the eastern city of Kolkata bore the brunt of the storm with many of its 14 million residents left without electricity and communications since Wednesday afternoon.
The cyclone made landfall on Wednesday after barreling in from the Bay of Bengal with heavy rains and high-velocity winds with speeds of up to 185 kmph (115 mph).
By Thursday morning, it weakened into a cyclonic storm and was expected to decline further into a depression after moving north-northeastwards at a speed of 27 kmph, the Indian Meteorological Department said.
However, the damage it caused along its path was widespread as authorities scrambled to mount a massive relief operation amid a raging coronavirus outbreak that has further complicated an already mammoth task.
Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of the state of West Bengal – which borders Bangladesh and has Kolkata as its capital – called Amphan “more destructive than COVID-19.”
“Around 10-12 persons are dead so far. Everything is finished. The river embankments, houses, light posts, infrastructure. Everything is destroyed,” Banerjee told reporters on Wednesday evening.
Officials said raging winds and rain destroyed thousands of mud houses in the state of West Bengal.
Many Kolkata residents have posted dramatic visuals on social media sites that showed uprooted trees, waterlogged streets turning into river ways, lamp posts upside down and power lines cut and dangling overhead.
Other photos and images provide evidence of buildings getting destroyed, vehicles being crushed under the fallen trees, and broken jetties adrift on swollen rivers.
Many city residents said they had never seen anything like what they went through last night.
Some pictures circulated online showed that the Kolkata airport was flooded and many structures within have been damaged with inundated tarmac, runways, and hangars. The roof of one of the structures inside the airport complex looked like it had caved in.
Jets of the state-run Air India were seen lying abandoned in hangars filled with rainwater.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the disaster response teams were working in the cyclone-affected areas and top officials were closely monitoring the situation and working in close coordination with the West Bengal government.
“No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected,” Modi tweeted.
Randeep Kumar Rana, the deputy inspector general of National Disaster Response Force, told EFE that electricity and communications were partially restored in West Bengal except for the 24 South Pargana district.
“In 24 South Pargana, there is no electricity, electric lines have snapped and electric poles have fallen. Telecommunication has also not been restored. There are uprooted trees and electric poles lying on the roads,” Rana said.
In neighboring Bangladesh, at least 12 people were killed, said Ayesha Akter, a spokesperson of Health Emergency Operations.
“It’s a difficult situation here. There is no power since the cyclone started. Roads are also blocked by falling trees,” said Moshiur Rahman, a senior police officer in Jessore town.