According to satellite images sent by various international cyclone monitoring organisations, the super Cyclone Amphan hit the coasts of West Bengal and Bangladesh Wednesday evening. The category-5 cyclone originating in the sea, turned a category-2 cyclone at the time it hit the coasts. Even after that It had a speed of about 160 to 170 kilometres per hour.
It will take time to assess the extent of cyclone Amphan's damage. As the wind speed was very powerful, there is a risk of extensive damage of the affected areas. A part of the cyclone hit the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. Sundarbans once again played a vital role to protect the country from massive destruction.
However, the super cyclone will affect the entire country. Khulna, Barishal division and adjoining coastal districts, including the Sundarbans, will be particularly affected. The route of the cyclone indicates that the main centre is to pass through Rajshahi in Bangladesh via Kolkata in West Bengal, India. According to the forecast, the velocity of wind will be around 80 kilometres per hour by that time. Estimated damages, therefore, could be huge.
We had adequate time to take precautions before the cyclone hit our coast, but then again, the country is going through a time of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Amphan came as an added calamity. The task of taking people to cyclone shelters was not as easy as it used to be. Coronavirus transmission must be avoided and social distance has to be considered. The minister for disaster management and relief said a total of about 2.4 million people have been brought to the shelters already.
People will have to stay in the shelters longer if the cyclone causes extensive damages and houses are destroyed. Ensuring hygiene, food and necessary assistance to the people will then be a major challenge. We hope the administration makes all due preparations.
The timing of the cyclone also posed an additional risk. As a result of the cyclone, abnormal rise in the water levels have been reported in the rivers of the coastal districts since noon yesterday. One one hand it was a night of a new moon, and on the other, the cyclone hit during high tide. In such a situation, the fragile dams of the coastal districts have become a cause of concern.
According to a report by Prothom Alo, 391 km of dams in four coastal districts of Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat and Barguna are at risk. It is unfortunate that these embankments have not been repaired in a long time. In many places permanent embankments have not been built.
How can we expect the embankments will survive the cyclone Amphan when these can hardly face a 5-6 feet of tidal surge? The situation could be dire. A number of villages were reported submerged due to the breaking of embankments in different places yesterday evening.
It is obvious, large-scale rescue and relief operations will have to begin after the cyclone is over. Many people on the coast have remained in their homes. As a result, there is a risk of casualties as many houses are destroyed.
Infrastructure like electricity and telephone connections along with all communication systems will also be damaged. Initiative must be taken to repair these quickly. The administration must begin work as soon as the cyclone is over.