Millions of people of Bangladesh and India are in the path of Super Cyclone Amphan bringing damaging winds and heavy rain to a region already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. Already the people of this region are suffering from the most infectious and dangerous disease ever known to man - the Covid-19, as Amphan ominously approaches the coastal areas of Orissa, West Bengal and Bangladesh. Amphan is expected to make landfall by the evening of May 20;therefore, the coastal Bay of Bengal areas in Bangladesh and the adjacent two Indian States are on high alert, with a “massive evacuation” underway.
Super Cyclone Amphan became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal on Monday night with sustained wind speeds of up to 270 kilometres per hour, according to data from the US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre. Since then, fortunately, Amphan weakened slightly, but still the storm is the equivalent to a strong hurricane or a super typhoon with winds speeds up to 240 kph.The already existing humanitarian crisis situation prevalent due to Covid-19 can be worsened due to the upcoming threat of ‘Amphan’. Evacuation of hundreds and thousands of coastal people to cyclone shelters by maintaining social distancing is likely to present a huge logistic challenge which is unprecedented.
More often than not, the responsibility to evacuate to safety lies mostly with the local people as the authorities are lacking in adequate manpower. But due to previous experiences, once the authorities call for evacuation, people know the standard evacuation procedures which they have become used to follow to reach the safety of cyclone shelters.
The government has readied 12,078 cyclone shelters in the coastal region for the evacuees to face the onslaught of Amphan. But the evacuation this time is different from previous times due to the additional burden of social distancing clause.
The people in the coastal areas have barely recovered from the devastation of ‘Aila’ which marauded the coastal areas of Bangladesh in 2009 leaving lasting salinity affecting cultivable lands and sources of drinking water. We must be prepared to meet the crisis that the people will face in the aftermath of Amphan.