The powerful cyclone that slammed into the coastal region where India and Bangladesh meet Wednesday likely caused $13.2 billion dollars in West Bengal alone, according to a source in the Indian state’s government.
The storm, Cyclone Amphan, packed powerful winds and heavy rains that killed at least 80 people in West Bengal and another 10 across the border in Bangladesh. As many as 500,000 families in Bangladesh may now be homeless, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, while the West Bengal government said that about 60% of the population was affected.
There is added urgency to get people displaced by the storm into adequate shelter due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as both India and Bangladesh grapple with accelerating infection rates.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Friday that the central government would put forward a $132 million relief package to help those affected by the storm, including direct payments for those who lost family members or were injured. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee pledged to spend the same amount on recovery efforts.
“The entire world is facing a crisis, India is also fighting against coronavirus, the method of fighting coronavirus and cyclone are completely opposite,” Modi said.
“From the central government as well a team will join and conduct surveys in all these sectors and together we will provide our full support for rehabilitation, reconstruction, restoration,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister traveled to the region Friday, where he, Banerjee and West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar toured areas hit hard by the storm.
Amphan was the most powerful cyclone ever to form in the Bay of Bengal, and though it weakened before making landfall, it caused widespread damage in both countries.
Both India and Bangladesh faced the herculean task of balancing storm preparations with the need to adhere to social distancing rules to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Authorities are now racing to provide relief efforts in communities already stricken by the coronavirus, hampered in many areas by heavy rains and fallen debris that has made roads impassible.
India passed more than 100,000 confirmed coronavirus infections earlier this week, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The country announced its largest single-day spike in cases on Friday, recording another 6,088 patients in 24 hours.
Cases in Bangladesh are also steadily rising. The country has to date confirmed more than 28,511 cases and 408 virus-related deaths, according to the data from Johns Hopkins.
S.N. Pradhan, the director-general of India’s National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), said the worst of the devastation was concentrated in two of West Bengal’s coastal districts. He said that the Sunderbans, ecologically fragile cluster of low-lying islands spread across India and Bangladesh, had been “pulverized” by the cyclone.
Kolkata, the biggest city in the direct path of the cyclone and home to 14 million people, saw powerful winds unprecedented in the city’s history, Pradhan said.
One official in Bangladesh said nearly every coastal district was seriously affected.
Though large-scale evacuation efforts appear to have saved many lives, it could take days to realize the full extent of the deaths, injuries and damage from the cyclone.
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Helen Regan, Swati Gupta, Esha Mitra and Manveena Suri contributed to this report