Cyclone 'Amphan' batters Bengal, Odisha as 6.5 lakh evacuated, 3 dead

An extremely severe cyclone packing winds of up to 190 kmph Wednesday rampaged through coastal Odisha and West Bengal, dumping heavy rain, swamping homes and farmland, and leaving at least three people dead, officials said.

While man and a woman were reported killed when trees came crashing down on them in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, a 13-year-old girl died in a similar incident in adjoining Howrah. No casualties have been reported from Odisha yet.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is monitoring the situation from Nabanna, the state secretariat, however, claimed at least 10-12 people lost their lives.

“Area after area has been ruined. I have experienced a war-like situation today. At least 10-12 people have died. Nandigram, Ramnagar….The two districts of North and South 24 Parganas are destroyed,” she said.

After making landfall at 2.30 p.M. Between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya island in Bangladesh, cyclone Amphan cut a swathe through the coastal areas, flattening fragile dwellings, uprooting trees and electric poles. At least 6.58 lakh people were evacuated in West Bengal and Odisha before the cyclone struck.

“The forward sector of the wall cloud region is entering into land in West Bengal. The intensity of the cyclone near its centre as the landfall process started was recorded at 160-170 kmph, gusting to 190 kmph,” the weather department said.

NDRF chief S N Pradhan told a press conference in New Delhi that 20 teams of the federal disaster response force had already begun road clearing operations in Odisha, while the 19 units deployed in West Bengal were shifting people to safety.

Quoting figures made available by the two states, Pradhan said over 5 lakh people were evacuated in West Bengal and more than 1.58 lakh in Odisha.

TV footage showed gigantic tidal waves crashing into a seawall in Digha, close to the landfall site.

Thick sheets of rain blurred the vast coastline in the two states and surging waters engulfed mud-and-thatch houses, flattening them in a trice. Heavy machinery was moved in to clear the roads blocked by falling trees.  A video clip of an under-construction Kolkata skyscraper showed huge aluminium sheets flying like bird feathers in air.