New Delhi, May 18 (efe-epa).- India and Bangladesh on Monday were making preparations for the possible impact of Amphan, a super cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal which is expected to make landfall on Wednesday and could become the biggest to hit the region in 20 years.
The Indian Meteorological Department said in a bulletin that the storm, which is carrying sustained winds of 165-175 kilometers per hour (100-110 mph) with gusts of up to 195 kph, was situated around 890 kilometers away from the coast of the state of West Bengal on Monday evening.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held a meeting with officials of the National Disaster Response Force to review the situation, even as the country continued to be under a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“Prime Minister took full stock of the situation and reviewed the response preparedness as well as the evacuation plan presented by the NDRF,” the Director General of the force, Satya Narayan Pradhan said in a press conference.
He said that 25 NDRF teams had been deployed while 12 others were kept ready as reserves. At least 24 other teams were on standby in other parts of the country.
According to the IMD, which has issued the highest level red-alert for the storm, Amphan is expected to make landfall on Wednesday morning between the Indian city of Digha – situated in the province of West Bengal – and Bangladesh’s Hatiya islands.
The storm was expected to affect the districts of East Medinipur, South and North 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, and capital Kolkata in West Bangal, apart from the coastal districts of the neighboring state of Odisha.
Pradhan told reporters that an estimated 200,000 people could be evacuated from West Bengal while at least 50,000-60,000 could be moved to safer areas in Odisha.
Meanwhile Bangladesh authorities were preparing to evacuate around 1.8-2 million citizens while maintaining social distancing to follow COVID-19 norms, the secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry, Shah Kamal, told EFE.
“Every year, we take people to around five to six thousand shelters. This time we have prepared 12,078 shelters. They include local schools and colleges which were turned into makeshift shelters,” said Kamal.
Meteorologists have warned that Amphan looked set to become the first super-cyclone to hit the region since 1999, when a similar storm killed more than 9,000 people in coastal Odisha.
The Bay of Bengal is prone to cyclones during the months of April-May and October-November, although modern technology and warning systems have helped authorities bring down the number of casualties drastically in recent years.
At least four people were killed in November in the Cyclone Bulbul, which affected both India and Bangladesh, while in May 2019 Cyclone Phani left at least 14 dead in the two countries. EFE-EPA