Super cyclone brings heavy rain, tidal waves to eastern India

A police officer moves a barricade to block a road leading to a flyover before Cyclone Amphan makes landfall, in Kolkata, India, on May 20, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)
Heavy rains and winds lashed the two eastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal hours before a powerful cyclone made landfall on Wednesday, May 20, with rescue teams evacuating millions of villagers to higher ground in an operation complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The weather department in India said Cyclone Amphan had slowed and was likely to cross the coast near West Bengal State or Bangladesh around 2:30 p.m. (0900 GMT).

An Indian federal home ministry official said West Bengal and neighboring Odisha state were struggling to house thousands of evacuees as existing shelters were being used as coronavirus quarantine centers.

Extra shelters were being prepared in wholesale markets and government buildings with allowances made for social distancing, while masks and scarves were being distributed among the villagers.

Police in West Bengal State, which is expected to be badly affected by the storm, said people were unwilling to go to the shelters because they were afraid of contracting COVID-19 and many were refusing to leave their livestock behind.

Railway officials have diverted trains away from the cyclone’s path to protect thousands of migrant workers traveling to Odisha and West Bengal from the capital, New Delhi, where they had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdown.

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