Though downgraded to Category 3 from its previous Category 5 strength, Tropical Cyclone Amphan is expected to make landfall near India and Bangladesh border on Wednesday as a major storm, with catastrophic storm surge, high winds, and torrential rains. This super cyclonic storm is happening at the same time India's COVID-19 infections crossed the 100,000 mark and are increasing at the fastest pace in Asia.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) released a statement on Tuesday that said the "very intense cyclone" is churning over the Bay of Bengal and headed for coastal regions bordering Bangladesh and India. A storm surge of 13 to 16 feet could be seen in some areas, especially around mangrove forests of the Sundarbans in far eastern India and Bangladesh.
Amphan has diminished intensity over the last day but remains one of the strongest cyclones to traverse the Bay of Bengal in decades.
IMD warned: "This cyclone has extensive damaging potential. It will cause extensive large scale damage. (i) Damage expected over West Bengal (East Medinipur, south & north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts) and action suggested."
Weather firm Joint Cyclone Center says the storm is still packing 115 mph winds. "Center of #Amphan getting closer to the #WestBengal associated with thunderstorms, gusty winds, flash flooding and rainbands spreading into #Bangladesh and #Burma overnight..."
IMD has issued an alert for Wednesday of damaging winds and flooding rainfall from Amphan in eastern India and Bangladesh. Most torrential rainfall and strong winds will be centered around West Bengal, which includes Kolkata.
"We are facing a dual challenge of 'cyclone in the time of COVID-19,' " Satya Narayan Pradhan, chief of India's National Disaster Response Force, stated at a press briefing Tuesday. "We are taking action according to the enormity of this challenge."
Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) Bangladesh estimates that up to "14.2 million people in coastal districts are likely to be affected, with nearly 1.4 million displaced and up to 600,000 houses damaged. Evacuation from high-risk areas is to begin today and is already underway in high-risk areas in India."
The life-threatening cyclone is arriving at a bad time for both countries as COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths surge. India has reported more than 100,000 confirmed cases, while Bangladesh has said about 25,000, as of Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
India has seen a 28% increase in cases since last week
The challenge to flatten the curve after the cyclone has passed could result in further spreading of the virus in the weeks ahead. The storm is expected to displace hundreds of thousands of folks. All of this suggests officials in both countries will be dealing with two disasters at once.