Cleanup Underway After Cyclone Amphan Strikes India And Bangladesh

May 21, 2020
Originally published on May 21, 2020 7:59 am
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Cleanup has begun in coastal India and Bangladesh after a cyclone that killed more than 80 people. Winds hit 115 miles per hour. Here's NPR's Lauren Frayer.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Indians and Bangladeshis posted video to social media of wind toppling trucks on a highway and sheering metal roofs off buildings...

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

FRAYER: ...And of yellow taxis with floodwaters up to their windows. Most of the deaths have been from falling trees, collapsing walls or drowning. Inland in one of India's biggest cities, Kolkata, a man posted video recorded from a balcony of downed power lines sparking explosions in a waterlogged street below.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

FRAYER: At least a million homes have lost power. A runway at Kolkata's airport is under water and a hanger in shreds. The chief minister of India's hardest-hit state, West Bengal, called the storm a dance of fury and a catastrophe worse than the coronavirus. She says whole islands have been cut off from the mainland, including communities in the Sundarbans, one of the largest mangrove forests in the world. In Bangladesh, Walter Mwasaa with the aid group CARE says the storm surge broke through protective embankments, flooding hundreds of coastal villages and potentially contaminating drinking water.

WALTER MWASAA: So homes are inundated. Some crops will be lost. But I still must say we feel that the country was a little better prepared this time.

FRAYER: Past cyclones in this low-lying area of river deltas have killed thousands. But this time, authorities succeeded in evacuating millions of people just before the storm hit. For many, it was their first time leaving home in nearly two months because of a lockdown due to the coronavirus. Mwasaa says the fear now is that evacuees might catch the virus inside storm shelters.

MWASAA: The biggest issue has been the social distancing. The government made big efforts to try and provide more space, converting schools into short-term shelters. But even in those, there are shared facilities such toilets and they may not be cleaned or disinfected sufficiently. So I would say that's our big concern.

FRAYER: He says it could be as long as two weeks before any evacuees develop symptoms, revealing the true extent of the harm this storm may have caused. Lauren Frayer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.