May 20 Cyclone Amphan news
Women and girls living in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh are vulnerable to an increase in gender-based violence, as the cyclone and coronavirus threaten their security, the International Rescue Committee's Bangladesh director, Manish Agrawal, has said.
The sprawling camps of Cox's Bazar are home to nearly one million stateless Rohingya refugees. While the camps on Bangladesh's east coast aren't directly in the cyclone's path, they are likely to be hit by severe weather.
"Life could not be more precarious for the nearly half a million women and girls who are already trapped in their homes as well as the children who make up over half of the camp’s residents," Agrawal said.
"Many of them have experienced gender-based violence, often at the hands of their partners, and now they risk having their homes uprooted to be forced into more condensed spaces."
He added that an "unimaginable" strain would be put on relationships and families in the camp "and there is a real risk that gender-based violence will increase as the cyclone takes hold.”
Cyclone Amphan has made landfall near Sagar Island in West Bengal, India, close to the Bangladeshi border.
The storm made landfall around 5 p.m. local time with sustained winds of 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph), according to the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center, making it equivalent in intensity to a category 2 Atlantic hurricane.
The center of the cyclone is currently 80 km south of Kolkata, West Bengal's capital, which has observed wind speeds up to 105 kph already.
Storm surge up to 5 meters (17 feet) is likely occurring along the coastline as Amphan continues to push inland across eastern India and Bangladesh.
Heavy rain is also likely to lead to flash flooding across the region through Thursday morning. Once the storm pushes inland it will weaken significantly and is expected to dissipate by Friday.
The Indian government has said the cyclone's strong winds, heavy rainfall and tidal waves are likely to cause "large scale and extensive damage" across multiple districts in West Bengal.
In a tweet, the government said "extensive damage" was expected "to all types of kutcha houses," which are typically made of flimsy materials like mud and bamboo.
Some damage is also expected to old buildings.
The government said that communications and power poles were also likely to be damaged, as were crops and plantations.
Amphan is likely to make landfall late afternoon local time near the city of Kolkata, West Bengal's capital.
Amphan's rains have started to affect the Sundarbans, a vast mangrove forest which crosses India and Bangladesh. The area is a UNESCO world heritage site known for being a habitat for rare and endangered species.
There are currently 96 protected tigers in the Sundarban forest reserve.
“We have a nylon net fence along the whole boundary which has prevented tigers from getting into settlement areas for the last five to six years," West Bengal's principal chief conservator of forests and wildlife Ravi Kant Sinha said.
"Our effort is to keep that maintained," he added on Wednesday.
"If anything happens [to the tigers] we have our rapid response teams with tranquilization nets and traps ready to tackle the situation."
“[The cyclone] has already started hitting the forest areas, a few of our locations are badly damaged, very high speed winds and water has entered our locations," Sinha said.
"Since this is a natural sanctuary we don’t do anything to interfere, whatever comes down naturally is left as is but the tigers are all fine."
Cyclone Amphan has created a "fast changing, transforming situation" in India, the director general of the country's National Disaster Relief Force Satya Narayan Pradhan has said.
“Our work, in terms of restoration and recovery, begins after the cyclone landfall. This is a long-haul process," Pradhan said Wednesday, speaking at a press conference in Delhi.
“All 20 [disaster relief] teams in Odisha are on ground. No one is on standby anymore. All teams have been called in.”
“In West Bengal, out of the total 21 [teams], 19 are on ground. One of the two teams on standby are now in Kolkata to look after the urban areas.”
A tweet sent by the Indian government to accompany Pradhan's remarks added that all the teams were equipped with PPE, as officials try to deal with the storm amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
India recorded its largest single-day coronavirus spike on Wednesday with 5,611 new cases.
Pradhan said more than half a million people had been evacuated across Odisha and West Bengal.
“With regards to evacuation, the latest figures from state officials are more than 500,000 people have been evacuated in West Bengal and over 158,640 in Odisha," he said.
More than 148,000 people have been evacuated in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, as Cyclone Amphan approaches land.
36 teams disaster response teams have been deployed across the state, Odisha's special relief commissioner Pradeep Jena said.
"We have already started tree cutting and clearing the roads, we will conduct assessments," he said.
"[I]n two of the districts reconnaissance teams have already gone in to assess what is the damage to electrical infrastructure."
“148,486 people have been evacuated in Odisha thus far," Jena said, adding that some would be allowed to return home if they lived in districts which suffered minimal damage.
The state plans to begin restoration work immediately.
The cyclone has started making landfall in India and will take four hours to move fully over land, India's Meteorological Department (IMD) has said.
"Landfall process commenced since 2:30 PM. It will continue for about 4 hours," the IMD said on Twitter.
The Indian government said the storm's impact was already being felt and that rescue crews were working to move uprooted trees in West Bengal.
The center of Cyclone Amphan is approaching land near Kasafal, India, beginning the process of landfall.
Official landfall, when half the storm's center is over land, is expected within the next one to two hours. Kasafal lies in the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
Amphan is currently 240 km (150 miles) from Kolkata, India and has sustained winds of 160 kph (100 mph), which is equivalent to a category 2 Atlantic hurricane.
Heavy rain and a storm surge of up to 5 meters tall (17 feet) is forecast as the storm makes landfall across eastern India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has evacuated around 2 million people and set up 12,078 cyclone centers, the country's state minister for disaster management and relief Md. Enamur Rahman said.
Rahman said officials had more than doubled the number of cyclone centers in use so that social distancing could be maintained. He added that evacuees would be supplied with masks.
"Earlier we had around 5,000 cyclone center[s] and this time we will [have] more than 12,000 this is how we will maintain social distancing in the shelters," he said.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall in the city of Khulna.
Rahman said that evacuating Cox's Bazar, the camp which is home to nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees, was "not that important" as the warning signal for the area was at 6, a relatively manageable level.
"So evacuation is still not that important and [there] are many cyclone center[s] around the Rohingya camps[,] so if the direction of cyclone changes toward Cox’s bazar and Chittagong then they would be evacuated."