Thousands evacuated in India as strong cyclone draws closer
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated to low-lying areas in two Indian states and moved to cyclone shelters to escape a powerful storm that is speeding towards the east coast.
Cyclone Yaas is on the verge of turning into a “very severe cyclonic storm” with sustained wind speeds of up to 177 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour), the Indian Meteorological Department said.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall early Wednesday in Odisha and West Bengal states.
The storm comes amid a devastating coronavirus wave and complicates India’s efforts to deal with the two just 10 days after Cyclone Tauktae hit India’s west coast and killed more than 140 people.
Thousands of emergency personnel have been deployed to coastal areas of both states for evacuation and possible rescue operations, said SN Pradhan, director of India’s National Disaster Response Force.
The Indian Air Force and Navy were also on standby for relief operations.
Trawlers and fishing boats have been urged to take shelter until further notice as forecasters warned of high tidal waves.
In West Bengal, authorities are scrambling to move tens of thousands of people to cyclone shelters.
Officials said at least 20 districts in the state would be feeling the brunt of the storm.
Last May, nearly 100 people died in Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm in more than a decade to hit eastern India, including the state of West Bengal.
It has razed villages, destroyed farms and left millions of people without electricity in eastern India and Bangladesh.
“We were unable to repair the damage to our house from the last cyclone. Now another cyclone is coming, how are we going to stay here? Says Samitri, who only uses one name.
In Odisha, a state already stricken with coronavirus infections, authorities evacuated nearly 15,000 people living along the coast and transferred them to cyclone shelters, senior officer Pradeep Jena said.
In a televised speech, the Chief Minister of State, Naveen Patnaik, called on those displaced to hurricane shelters to wear double masks and maintain their social distancing.
He asked the authorities to distribute masks to the evacuees.
“We have to face both challenges simultaneously,” Patnaik said.